May 17th is World Hypertension Day, so let’s talk about what signs to look out for (if any), who’s at increased risk and what you can to do avoid a diagnosis.
It might sound like a big, scary word, but hypertension is really just another way of saying high blood pressure. Not so scary? Not so fast. If you don’t get it under control, high blood pressure can lead to health complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia (or even death). So it’s best to nip in the blood… err… bud sooner rather than later.
Signs to look out for
Here’s the thing, hypertension doesn’t necessarily come with a whole bunch of obvious symptoms, which means it can be tricky to diagnose. That said, if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it could mean that your blood pressure is extremely high and you should see your family doctor ASAP. The following symptoms should be cause for concern:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Blood in the urine
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue, confusion or other neurological indicators
- Pounding in your chest, ears or neck
- Severe headaches
Of course, if you can avoid letting things get this far, you’d be a much happier camper. So let’s look at who should be extra vigilant and what we can all do to keep our blood pressure in a healthy range.
Who’s at increased risk?
If you happen to fit into one or more of the following categories, prevention is key. Also, you may want to speak with your doctor about an action plan that is customized to your risk factors. Your doctor may recommend a diet that is sodium-free or suggest you monitor your blood pressure at home. You may be at increased risk for hypertension if you:
- Are of a certain ethnic background (i.e., if you are a black person of African or Caribbean descent, or if you are from South Asia)
- Are overweight
- Are under a lot of stress
- Drink too much alcohol
- Don’t exercise enough
- Eat foods that are high in salt
- Have a family history of high blood pressure
Prevention is worth (more than) an ounce of cure
While hypertension is treatable, think about this: It’s a combination of medication, changes to your diet and regular exercise. Considering both diet and exercise are huge part of prevention, all you’re doing is giving yourself extra work (and some health issues) if you don’t take things seriously… before they get serious! Here’s what you can do to help prevent high blood pressure that leads to hypertension and possible health complications:
- Eat a balanced diet that is low in salt.
- Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit your alcohol intake and give up smoking.
- Monitor your blood pressure, especially if you’re at an increased risk.
Unsure of where you are? Here is a risk calculator we recommend you try from the American Heart Association. However; a doctor’s diagnosis is the only true way to understand if you need to manage your blood pressure. Don’t know how to ask your doctor about it? Here are some key questions to ask at your next doctor’s visit.
Depending on your lifestyle, the list above may seem daunting. If, for example, current bad habits seem insurmountable, take baby steps. No one expects you to make a bunch of huge changes in one fell swoop. So choose the one that seems most attainable, and start there. Once that becomes habit, move on to the next… and the next… And soon it will all come naturally.
Ready to get started? There’s no time like the present. It is World Hypertension Day, after all.