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Some 60 million Americans have high blood pressure, or hypertension, but only about half of them know it, primarily because it so rarely causes any noticeable symptoms and is usually detected only incidentally during a routine physical examination.
But left untreated, hypertension promotes atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and destruction of tiny blood vessels in the eye, which can result in vision loss. For these reasons hypertension is often called “the silent killer.”
For this reason, it’s important to check your blood pressure on a regular basis, at least once a year. If you have risk factors for high blood pressure, including being overweight, sedentary or if you have a family history of hypertension or heart disease, you should have it checked more often.
Ask your doctor for your ideal reading. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is called a “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms and goes undetected in a high percentage of people. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, comply with medications to treat it. Untreated high blood pressure leads to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and heart failure.
Blood pressure is similar to pressure one encounters in water pipes. The upper number is systolic, the lower number diastolic. As a blood vessel loses its elasticity - often with age - the systolic blood pressure increases, so it is important to check your blood pressure regularly.
Checking your blood pressure regularly is the only way to know if you have high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension almost never causes any symptoms, so people will not know that they have it unless they check. It is not necessary to check your blood pressure every day, but checking it a few times a year is easy to do and will identify hypertension. If you get readings that are greater than 140 over 90, you should see your doctor. If you begin to keep a log of your blood pressure readings, this can help you and your doctor decide if you may need treatment for hypertension.
High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so regularly checking the blood pressure is the only way to know if a person has high blood pressure. For most people, blood pressure should be taken at each doctor’s visit or at least every two years. If you have already been diagnosed with heart disease or other risk factors for heart disease, your blood pressure measurement should be more closely monitored.
Blood pressure should be checked regularly because it is a barometer of health and there are often no symptoms to alert one to the presence of high blood pressure.
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High blood pressure goes unnoticed. Headaches, chest pains, and blurred vision can all be signs of high blood pressure, but they often do not occur until the pressure is extremely elevated.
Often people notice high blood pressure at the dentist's office, but ignore it, thinking that it was only elevated because they were nervous about their visit. While "white coat high blood pressure" certainly exists, do not ignore a high reading.
Let that alert you to check your pressure several more times under low stress situations, such as when you are doing your routine grocery shopping. Pop your arm in the cuff that is usually set up in the pharmacy section, and check your pressure. If it is running high (top number above 140 or bottom number above 90), you should get your own cuff and check pressures daily for a couple weeks. Record these pressures, and take them with you to see your family doctor.
Although high blood pressure cannot be cured, it can be controlled with lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication. Be sure to see your doctor for regular checkups and to monitor your blood pressure. Nearly one-third of adults are unaware they have high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure can result in stroke, kidney failure, and blindness.
You doctor may recommend that you monitor your blood pressure at home regularly or for a period of time. Your doctor would make this request to get a better idea of your average blood pressure over time. This may be important if you have other underlying risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, or other conditions that may affect blood pressure.
Some people get abnormally high blood pressure readings at the doctor's office, a common occurrence referred to as the "white coat" effect brought on by nervousness. If this is suspected, checking blood pressure over time in other settings is very important.
If you are on blood pressure medication for hypertension, your doctor may want you to take and record your blood pressure during various times and settings, in order to get a better idea of your average blood pressure.
The American Heart Association and other health organizations recommend self monitoring of blood pressure for anyone who has hypertension.
You should get your blood pressure checked regularly because high blood pressure is a silent killer. There are often no symptoms of this potentially deadly condition. So while you’re going about your day, high blood pressure could be damaging your arteries, your heart, and other organs. The nasty consequences of leaving high blood pressure untreated include stroke, kidney damage, and even erectile dysfunction.
Your risk of high blood pressure increases with age. If you smoke, are obese, are physically inactive, or have diabetes or high cholesterol, you may also be at an increased risk. The good news is that a blood pressure test is quick and painless and can be done at most any doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic. You may also be a candidate for using a home monitoring device. Talk with your doctor about checking your blood pressure at home.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.