How high is your blood pressure?

High blood pressure is a commonly diagnosed condition in a primary care office. People are often asymptomatic and usually attribute their blood pressure to be high in the office due to white coat syndrome. While that may be a possibility, more than often, it is not the case. High blood pressure is a clinical diagnosis; you need two separate readings on two different occasions to diagnose such. Usually, people that have high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms. However, in a few cases, a person may experience headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds. Still, these signs and symptoms aren't specific and usually don't occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology (ACC), normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or less.

  • Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;

  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;

  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;

If this condition is left untreated, it can lead to a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and death. There are risk factors associated with high blood pressure, including obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, genetic factors/family history, unhealthy diet, diabetes.

While some risk factors we cannot control, it is well-documented that lifestyle modification can reduce your risk of developing hypertension.

Non-pharmacological strategies that have demonstrated lowering blood pressure include limiting sodium intake to less than 2,400 mg per day. Further reduction of sodium to 1,500 mg daily is associated with an even more significant decrease in blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet lowers blood pressure by approximately 5 to 6 mmHg. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Another strategy used to decrease blood pressure is engaging in physical activity. Most health benefits occur at a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise like dancing, bicycling, aerobic exercise, jogging, and walking briskly. Weight loss of 22 lbs will reduce blood pressure by 5 to 20 mmHg. It's also recommended to stop smoking and decrease alcohol intake as both can cause increased blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is not well-controlled using therapeutic lifestyle changes, the next appropriate step would be to start medication. The choice of medication prescribed will depend on your overall health and the measurement of the blood pressure itself.

You can get screened for blood pressure at the grocery store and local pharmacy. If your blood pressure is above 120/80 mmHg, give us a call at 832-391-5300 to get you evaluated and treated to avoid any unwanted complications due to high blood pressure. We are happy to help.

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