How is Your Blood Pressure?

blood pressure cuff

Information from Theresa M. Brennan, MD:

High blood pressure is defined as having a systolic (top) number of 140 mm Hg or greater and/or a diastolic (bottom) number of 90 mm Hg or greater. For some (patients with diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease) these numbers may need to be even lower. People who are age 45 or older, non-Hispanic black females, non-Hispanic white males, or Mexican Americans are the most likely to have hypertension. They are also less likely to know they have the disorder, and only about one-third of them presently adequately control the condition with medication.

In addition, an estimated 50 million Americans now have a condition called pre-hypertension. People in this category have blood pressures of 120 to 139 millimeters of mercury systolic (top number) or 80 to 90 diastolic (bottom number), according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. They are considered to have a high risk of developing "full" hypertension. We also know that these people have an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes when compared to patients with blood pressures less than 115/80.

As with most diseases, prevention is the most effective way to deal with a disorder. A healthy diet (low in fat, and high in whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables) and a regular exercise program are lifestyle changes that are important for all of us. This heart healthy lifestyle will help to maintain a healthy weight to maintain or improve blood pressure control. A low salt diet has many positive effects and may help control blood pressure in many people. We need to eat right and move more!

We must encourage people to get their blood pressure checked regularly and to get treatment, if needed. High blood pressure (Hypertension) is often called "the silent killer" because people frequently don't have any symptoms. This lack of symptoms can allow the damage from hypertension to progress until a major event such as a heart attack or stroke occurs. Diagnosing hypertension early and treating with lifestyle changes and medication can prevent many of the complications of this condition.

Our comprehensive heart risk assessment puts you in the hands of a trained cardiac physiologist, who can alert you to your risks and help you chart a course of change in diet and lifestyle.

It is clear that we have to enhance our efforts to make people more aware that high blood pressure continues to be a major public health threat. Knowing your numbers, what they are and what they should be and seeing your physician regularly will decrease the risk of the serious complications of hypertension.