Because it draws zero attention to itself, high blood pressure — the technical term is hypertension — seems to be the easiest to shrug off of all ongoing health conditions in American adults.
It’s symptomless. It’s sneaky. A trivial paper cut will cause you more pain and suffering than this important aspect of your health.
Nearly half of all American adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, and many don’t even know it.
But hypertension doesn’t stay symptomless forever, according to Dr. Noreen Nazir, a preventive cardiologist at Oregon Health & Science University.
“In the early stages, you can have elevated numbers but no sustained symptoms,” Nazir said. “The body is trying to compensate. It can do this for a time but you may be on your way to developing symptoms and developing negative outcomes later on.”
Avoid ‘Holiday Heart’
The holiday season is when we tend to eat and drink with abandon. Doctors have a name for seasonally troubled cardiovascular systems: “holiday heart.” If you’re trying to keep your blood pressure in check despite holiday treats and peer pressure, try these tips:
- Before you hit that party, snack healthily and include protein. You’ll be less inclined to gorge.
- At the party, start with a glass of water. Delay and reduce alcohol.
- Keep exercising. In addition to keeping your blood pressure better regulated, it’ll reduce stress and keep your spirits bright.
- Stick with your meds. If you tend to forget, get a weekly pill organizer.
- Be careful with over-the-counter cold and flu meds, which can raise blood pressure. Read labels.
According to the American Heart Association, chronic hypertension — that is, blood pressure that stays too high for too long — increases one’s risk of heart attack, stroke and a host of other health problems, from heart and kidney disease to vision loss and sexual dysfunction.
“Most people experience very little symptoms until it’s too late,” said Dr. Richard Segal, an internal medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Salem, Ore.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke is No. 5.
“Worldwide, raised blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths, about 12.8 percent of the total of all deaths,” according to the World Health Organization.
That’s why it’s important to get screened, understand what your numbers mean