Know Your Numbers

Do you know what your numbers are: your blood pressure numbers? Have you been told by your doctor that you have hypertension or maybe �borderline hypertension�?

Hypertension is called the silent killer. It can go unnoticed for many years before it is found. There are no signs or symptoms of hypertension to warn of a serious problem. That is to say, it doesn’t produce a headache or pain that might suggest you be seen by your doctor.

There are basically two types of hypertension.
�Primary Hypertension holds the title of silent killer. It has no specific medical cause. Often the first symptom is that of sudden cardiac arrest or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke.
� Secondary Hypertension is a result of another preexisting medical condition such as kidney disease or diabetes. The onset is more rapid due to the direct correlation to the disease process of the underlying condition.

What exactly is hypertension? It is abnormally high levels of pressure within the blood vessels. It is measured in two numbers. i.e. 120/80. The first number refers to the systolic pressure or the amount of pressure placed on the vessel during cardiac contraction. The second number refers to diastolic pressure or the amount of pressure on the vessel during the resting phase of cardiac contraction. A high diastolic number is therefore more serious than a systolic number because it means that the blood vessels are under constantly high pressures. You might relate it to a garden hose. If you turn the water off at the nozzle end of the hose and leave the water valve on, the hose is under significantly more pressure than if the nozzle is open so the water flows through the hose. Left this way long enough the hose will become damaged.

Primary hypertension has many causes including but not limited to obesity, sleep apnea, stress and high sodium levels or sensitivity. Most frequently by correcting these underlying causes, you will in turn correct the hypertension. By watching what you eat and adding some exercise into your daily routine you can often lower your blood pressure to more �normal� levels. Other causes such as age and genetics can not be corrected but the effects of them can be reduced. Diet and exercise are even more important if you have hypertension due to an uncontrollable cause. Having routine medical examinations to monitor your blood pressure changes will help in diagnosing any secondary medical problems which the primary hypertension may cause. If diet and exercise do not correct the hypertension, you doctor may prescribe one of many medications that help. Once medications are needed, one needs to stay on them for life. Just because your blood pressure is within the normal ranges again, doesn’t mean you can stop taking them. Doing so often comes with severe consequences such as strokes and heart attacks.

Have your blood pressure checked at least once a year, more often if you are at high risk of hypertension. Know your numbers. Don’t be the victim of the silent killer.

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