The Ins and Outs of Hypertension and Heart Health
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the force of blood flowing through a person’s blood vessels is too high on a consistent basis. Over time, this can damage the arteries, kidneys, brain and heart.
According to the American Heart Association, hypertension affects almost half of all adults in America, although many don’t know they have it due to lack of symptoms, especially early on. As a result, hypertension is considered a “silent killer." If left untreated, it can damage the circulatory system and put you at risk for heart attack, stroke, heart disease and other health issues.
Because hypertension isn’t usually associated with symptoms, the only way to stay on top of it is to monitor your blood pressure. You can do this at home or at your doctor’s office. In fact, many monitors have been validated to help you accurately measure your blood pressure on your own. Though your clinician will understand your results and be able to discuss them with you, it's helpful to learn about what your numbers mean.
To understand how you can prevent hypertension, it’s important to know the contributing risk factors. Common hereditary and lifestyle risks associated with hypertension include:
- Family history: A family history of hypertension increases your risk of developing the condition
- Age: It’s not uncommon for blood pressure to increase with age
- Gender: Up until age 64, men are more likely to develop hypertension than women
- Race: Black Americans develop hypertension at a higher rate than individuals of other racial backgrounds
- Other medical conditions: Hypertension may develop as a result of other medical conditions, such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease
- Lack of physical activity: Physical activity is a key factor in heart health, so not making room for physical activity in your lifestyle may put you at increased risk for developing hypertension
- Obesity: Extra weight means putting extra strain on your heart which can hurt your cardiovascular system and lead to other medical conditions associated with hypertension, such as diabetes
- Smoking: Smoking and other tobacco use directly contributes to increased blood pressure and leads to damaged arteries
- Stress: Chronic stress can lead to increased blood pressure and lead to other behaviors associated with hypertension, such as physical inactivity, poor diet, or increased alcohol or tobacco use
The best way to prevent hypertension and manage your blood pressure is by making healthy lifestyle changes. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this means getting regular physical activity, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and abstaining from smoking.If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, reach out to your primary care team, or use our website to find a doctor.