Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is known as the silent killer because, as deadly as it is, it is rare for a person to have any symptoms.   According to a study done at Harvard University, one in three people in the United States has hypertension.  Hypertension is usually discovered by accident:  during a routine doctor’s visit; a physical for work; or if you are ill, or injured.  It seems that the first part of any medical encounter is a blood pressure check.

If your blood pressure is slightly high, the nurse or doctor will usually re-check it before you leave the office.  Many times when a person is not feeling their best, or is under stress, their blood pressure can rise slightly and will return to normal, with a bit of relaxation.  If your blood pressure is still only slightly high, the doctor will most likely ask you to come back for a follow-up visit in a week, or so.

Many people suffer from what the American Heart Association calls “white-coat hypertension.”  This simply means that the stress from going to the doctor can spike your blood pressure, but it will return to normal after you leave the office.  In such cases, your doctor may suggest that you monitor your blood pressure at home, to avoid this phenomenon.

If your blood pressure is abnormally high during your return visit, the doctor or nurse will likely retake your blood pressure, usually while standing, sitting and laying down.  If your blood pressure is consistently high, you probably have hypertension.

How High is too High?

The typical adult blood pressure that we always hear is 120/80; nonetheless, it can be slightly lower or higher and still be considered ok, as everyone is a little different.  Certain factors are also taken into consideration by your doctor such as:  weight; whether you smoke or drink; how much you exercise; your stress level; and preexisting conditions, such as heart disease.

A blood pressure reading that is higher than 140/90 is considered Stage 1 Hypertension and blood pressure greater than 160/100 arthritis and heart disease adis considered Stage 2 Hypertension.

With Stage 1 Hypertension, your doctor will likely first talk to you about lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, if you smoke – quitting, if you drink – reducing the amount that you consume.  Your doctor will want to monitor your blood pressure weekly or bi-weekly in the office, in addition to having you monitoring it more frequently at home.

If you are confirmed to have Stage 2 Hypertension, your doctor will most likely prescribe a blood pressure medication to help lower your blood pressure, in addition to making lifestyle changes.  She will also continue to monitor your blood pressure, usually on a weekly basis, and have you monitor it at home more frequently.

Hypertension can be deadly, as the name “silent killer” indicates.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Lifestyle changes and or a combination of lifestyle changes and medication can get your blood pressure down to a safe level.

The best approach is to really work at the lifestyle changes and not totally depend on medications.  Although, some people will always need medication, regardless of the lifestyle changes that they make, fresh air, good food and exercise is always a good plan!

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