May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. We wanted to take this opportunity to explain what hypertension is, what you can do to monitor it and what risk factors can predispose you to it.
According to the World Health Organization, hypertension, or elevated blood pressure, is a condition that affects 1.13 billion people worldwide. It occurs when there is increased pressure in the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. As a result, elevated blood pressure makes more work for the heart to get blood to where it needs to go.
Often times hypertension goes untreated because it does not cause symptoms. Some patients may experience headaches, blurred vision, or ringing in the ears, but elevated blood pressure often goes undetected.
The simplest way to diagnose hypertension is by monitoring your blood pressure. The most current guidelines state that normal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg. Hypertension is diagnosed when your blood pressure is consistently greater than 130/80mmHg.
There is no one cause of hypertension. However, many risk factors can predispose you to elevated blood pressure. These include:
- Poor dietary habits
- Genetic predisposition
- Medical conditions such as sleep apnea, obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease
By implementing certain lifestyle changes, you can lower your risk of developing hypertension. These include:
- Following a heart-healthy diet, low in sodium
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day
Preventing hypertension will lower your risk of developing serious medical conditions in the future, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.