High blood pressure (HBP) is one of the more silent, but often deadliest health conditions. High blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer because most people who have HPB experience almost no symptoms. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause complications such as strokes, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, kidney disease or death.
You may hear some providers refer to high blood pressure as “hypertension.” Hypertension is when the force of your blood pressure pushes against the walls of your blood vessels, making the pressure of your blood consistently too high.
A normal blood pressure measures at 120/80 or lower. High blood pressure measures at 140/90 or higher. Blood pressures within this range are referred to as pre-hypertension and may be associated with similar risks as hypertension.
Your blood pressure is measured by placing a cuff around your arm and inflating the cuff. The goal is to cut off circulation for just a second so that the pressure generated by blood flow can be measured. Measuring your blood pressure can either be done at your doctor’s office or at home with a blood pressure monitor.
Your blood pressure is represented by two numbers and is written with a number on top and a number on the bottom. The top number is the systolic pressure, which measures pressure in the blood vessels as your heart beats. Typically, this number should be the higher number of the two. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, which measures the force of blood in your arteries between beats of your heart as it relaxes. This number should be the lower of the two.
High blood pressure is most prevalent in minorities with 40% of minorities in the United States being diagnosed compared to 27% of Caucasians being diagnosed with high blood pressure. To date, researchers don’t have an exact answer as to why it is more common in minorities. However, two factors have been shown to increase the risk of developing HBP in individuals: genetic factors and environmental factors.
The genetic makeup of minorities is linked to higher rates of hypertension. Genetic factors such as salt sensitivity, excessive weight, family history of high blood pressure or diabetes, and increased age all contribute to higher risks for hypertension.
Whether or not a person develops high blood pressure also depends on social and economic factors. Typically, communities with more minorities often experience increased risks of hypertension due to a lack of resources that are available to help lower rates of this condition.
If you find yourself checking the boxes for genetic and environmental factors, you may be at an increased risk for developing high blood pressure. It is important to seek care as soon as possible to begin understanding and controlling your high blood pressure. Along with proper medication, there are things you can do at home to reduce your blood pressure:
- Increasing exercise
- Limiting salt intake
- Reducing stress levels
If you find that your blood pressure reading is elevated, and you have been experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or weakness, it is best to either seek emergency care or schedule an appointment with your doctor.
For more information on high blood pressure and receiving treatment, visit your health care provider or visit UofLHealth.org to find a provider or request an appointment.