High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a health condition that affects a wide swath of the American population — about 47%, while nearly half of Florida’s residents also live with the condition.
Hypertension puts you at risk for a host of serious health conditions, so diagnosing it and getting it under control are critical.
Fortunately, Dr. Gurprit Sekhon at Nu Wave Medical Center offers diagnostic help and effective treatments for this worrisome condition. Her expertise provides you with the best care available, and she delivers it with a warm human touch — important when tackling a tough health challenge.
Blood pressure basics
First, we need to understand what happens in your body when your blood pressure reaches dangerous levels. When your arteries are healthy, they’re elastic, wth a smooth inner lining that allows your blood to flow easily to your organs and tissues, delivering essential oxygen and nutrients.
Your blood pressure reading consists of two numbers. The first, your systolic blood pressure, represents the pressure against the artery walls while your heart is beating; the second, your diastolic pressure, represents the pressure between heartbeats.
When the pressure increases too much, your arteries weaken, and you’re at higher risk for other chronic conditions.
High blood pressure is alarming because it’s a silent disease, meaning you have no symptoms until you have a health emergency like a stroke or heart attack.
The harmful effects of high blood pressure
Sustained high blood pressure has tentacles that reach many of your body’s systems. Untreated high blood pressure’s negative effects are broad:
1. Damage to the cells that line your arteries
Hypertension damages the cells in the arteries’ inner linings, as fats accumulate. They then lose elasticity, and it’s harder for blood to flow where it needs to.
When an artery weakens, a bulge, or aneurysm can develop in its wall, rupture, and cause life-threatening internal bleeding. These can develop in any artery, but the most common one affected is your aorta.
3. Heart problems
Limited blood flow to the heart causes coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart rhythm irregularities (arrhythmias), heart attack, and chest pain, or angina. Patients may also suffer from a thickened left heart ventricle — also increasing the risk of heart failure, heart attack, and sudden cardiac death.
4. Kidney issues
Kidney damage, scarring, and kidney failure are also caused by hypertension. Your kidneys are vital for filtering waste from your blood.
5. Brain conditions
When your brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen and nutrients, a stroke can occur, where irreplaceable brain cells die. Blood clots can also develop in the arteries that go to your brain and cause a stroke. A transient ischemic attack (TIA), called a “mini stroke,” may also occur. High blood pressure has also been linked to mild cognitive impairment and vascular dementia.
6. Eye damage
Hypertension can damage retinal blood vessels (retinopathy), cause fluid to accumulate under the retina (choroidopathy), and lead to optic neuropathy, damage to the optic nerve that can cause bleeding inside the eye and vision loss.
This sobering list confirms why it’s so important to know your blood pressure reading and manage your blood pressure if it’s too high. People with diabetes are twice as likely to have hypertension too.
When is blood pressure considered high?
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association put forth new guidelines that defined high blood pressure in 2017. Blood pressure is considered normal if your reading is 120 mm Hg/80 mm Hg or less, and it’s considered elevated if it reads at 120-129 mm Hg/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure is a reading of 130 mm Hg or greater/80 mm Hg or greater.
How can I get my blood pressure under control?
Dr. Sekhon always measures and discusses your blood pressure during your annual wellness exam. If you have a high reading or are at risk for hypertension, she monitors it regularly.
Since your blood pressure normally goes up and down each day, it may be necessary to measure it using an at-home blood pressure machine. Some people get nervous at doctors’ appointments, and their pressure goes up just during that time, so this “white coat hypertension” isn’t representative of the norm.
Lifestyle changes like eating more healthfully, losing weight, and getting more exercise all help lower your blood pressure. Nu Wave Medical Center offers medically supervised weight loss if you need to address a weight issue. Dr. Sekhon may also prescribe medications to keep your blood pressure under control.
Don’t delay learning about your blood pressure. Consult with Dr. Sekhon to lower it if there’s a problem. Call our office at 850-493-6948 to schedule an appointment today, or book one online.