Weekly Wellness: Attention to the Pressure

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COLUMBIA – High blood pressure, also known as HBP or hypertension, is a widely misunderstood medical condition. Some people think that those with hypertension are tense, nervous or hyperactive, but hypertension has nothing to do with personality traits. The truth is, you can be a calm, relaxed person and still have HBP.

The basics of blood pressure: your body’s organs need oxygen to survive. Oxygen is carried through the body by blood. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through your veins and arteries. Your blood pressure is the result of two forces: the force of the blood pumping out of the heart and into the arteries; and the force created as the heart rests between heart beats. These two forces represent the two numbers of your blood pressure. The tissues that make up your arteries stretch like elastic when the heart pumps your blood through them. The more force needed to pump the blood, the more the arteries stretch to allow the blood to flow easily. Over time, if the force of the flow is often high, the tissue can become stretched and damaged causing vascular weakness, scarring, blood clots, plaque build-up, among other potential health issues.

Even if you may not feel that anything is wrong, uncontrolled high blood pressure can permanently damage your heart, brain, eyes and kidneys before you feel anything. High blood pressure can often lead to heart attack and heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health consequences.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. In fact, more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood.

High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why having your blood pressure checked regularly is important. It’s easy to get your blood pressure checked. You can get screened at your doctor’s office and drugstores or even check it yourself at home, using a home blood pressure monitor.

Work with your health care team to make sure you meet your blood pressure goal.

If you know you have high blood pressure, take these steps to help get it under control:

  • Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be.
  • Take your blood pressure medicine as directed.
  • Quit smoking—and if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
  • Reduce sodium intake.

More information about high blood pressure is available at CDC’s High Blood Pressure website. In addition, the following resources are available to help you and your loved ones take control your goal:

High Blood Pressure: How to Take Control your goal

Supporting Your Loved One with High Blood Pressure

African Americans Heart Disease and Stroke Fact Sheet

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