Modern Australian

The Dangers of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure

  • Written by Dr Felix


High blood pressure has been scientifically proven to be one of the leading mortality risk factors in the western world. This condition is commonly known in the medical industry as the 'silent killer'. Many sufferers do not know that they have elevated blood pressure levels, that are considered in the risk zone, until it is too late. Despite the seriousness of this illness, there are many healthy lifestyle choices that sufferers can embrace to assist with managing and lowering their blood pressure to healthy levels.

This disease occurs over time when your blood flows through your arteries at a higher than normal pressure. A sphygmomanometer, also known as a blood pressure meter, is used to measure blood pressure. When your blood pressure reading is performed by a medical professional, they will monitor two readings from the sphygmomanometer – the systolic (the blood pressure that occurs when the heart is pumping blood) and the diastolic (the blood pressure that occurs when the heart is filling with blood). Typically, a healthy heart reading for most adults will be 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury or shown as 120/80 mm Hg.

It is important to understand that a one-off 'high' reading, or the occasional high reading, does not constitute a high blood pressure diagnosis. Throughout our lives, we face various positive and negative circumstances that will affect our well-being, and these events will have a temporary effect on our health. Only after a sustained period, when your doctor regularly checks and records your blood pressure, will the disease be diagnosed. One key aspect of hypertension is that sufferers will usually not show any symptoms. This is markedly different from other ailments that will exhibit one or more symptoms and make you aware of the need for medical treatment, such as a repeated cough and sore throat, which we associate with the common flu.

For sufferers with this disease, the health risks are substantial if left undiagnosed, and hence untreated. The major risks are as follows:

Family History:

If heart disease is prevalent in your family history, then unfortunately, you are at higher risk. Medical genetic studies have provided most of our understanding of blood pressure, and where it comes from, so the findings are profound.

Age:

As we age, our arteries and blood vessels will thicken and harden, which contributes to elevated blood pressure levels.

Lifestyle:

Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and (continuously) eating the wrong food-types will increase the risks associated with your blood pressure.

The good news is that simple lifestyle changes and choices you make can decrease these risk factors.

Healthy Heart Food/ Diet:

There are diets that your doctor can recommend that have been medically proven to lower blood pressure. One such diet is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, eating plan.

Weight and Exercise:

Ensure that you strive for a weight, or weight range, that is suitable for your age: your medical professional will assist you with this. Achieving and sustaining your weight will require an exercise program that your doctor can also help you with.

Lifestyle:

Quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake are choices that will reduce your risk factors. Managing your stress and ensuring you get plenty of sleep will also reduce the likelihood of high blood pressure.

Prescribed Medications:

If, despite these lifestyle changes, your blood pressure remains high, you may be prescribed medication. There is a wide range of medications that your doctor can prescribe for you, each with their own pros and cons. Exactly how each drug will work will depend on your blood pressure history, age, sex, and race. Any other existing medical conditions will also need to be considered.

Once you have adopted a high blood pressure plan, taking your prescribed medications, monitoring your blood pressure, and making lifestyle changes, will all help you reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure.

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