Why you need to check your blood pressure

May 15, 2017 | by Alison Sage, D.O.

Heart attack. Stroke. Vision loss. Sexual dysfunction.

These are some of the problems you face if your blood pressure gets too high.

It’s important to note that high blood pressure comes without symptoms. You don’t feel a thing. Meanwhile, your arteries are being damaged.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common. The American Heart Association reports one out of three Americans older than 20 have high blood pressure. That’s 85 million people.

So how do you know if you have high blood pressure? Have your doctor measure it. If it’s normal, have it checked again in a year or two. If it’s high, your doctor may want you to try measuring it at home to get a bigger picture of the pressure over time.

You can purchase a blood pressure monitor at your local pharmacy or online. Look for one with a cuff that fits around your arm. This Consumer Reports article lays out some features to look for in a home blood pressure monitor.

Once you have the monitor and are checking your numbers at home, bring the monitor with you on your next appointment with your doctor.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure – or if you’d like to live a healthier lifestyle and keep blood pressure low – there are things you can do to keep yourself healthy.

The American Heart Association offers five steps to control your blood pressure:

  • Know your numbers. Most people diagnosed with high blood pressure want to stay below 140/90 mm Hg, but your healthcare provider can tell you your personal target blood pressure.
  • Work with your doctor. Your healthcare provider will help you make a plan to lower your blood pressure.
  • Make a few lifestyle changes. In many cases this will be your doctor’s first recommendation, likely in one of these areas:
    • Maintain a healthy weight. Strive for a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9.
    • Eat healthier. Eat lots of fruit, veggies and low-fat dairy, and less saturated and total fat.
    • Reduce sodium. Stay under 1,500 mg a day, which is associated with the greatest reduction in blood pressure.
    • Get active. Shoot for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3-4 times per week.
    • Limit alcohol. Drink no more than 1-2 drinks a day. (One for most women, two for most men.)
  • Check your blood pressure at home.
  • Take any medication prescribed by your doctor.

High blood pressure can be brought under control. And it’s worth the effort.

Your heart is in good hands when you choose Edward-Elmhurst Health for cardiovascular care. Learn more.

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