About half of all adults in the United States — 108 million people — have hypertension and fewer than 25% of those with the chronic disease have it under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unlike other chronic health conditions, hypertension develops without causing symptoms. You can have hypertension for years and not know it.
At RiverCity Family Medicine, PLLC in Chattanooga, Tennessee, our compassionate family medicine physician, Dr. Anthony Avitabile, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension.
He wants you to know more about the common condition and how to know if you have it.
In 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association made a few changes to the guidelines that lowered the threshold for when doctors need to start taking action for the management of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
When you visit us for your annual physical or a sick visit, we always check your blood pressure. Your blood pressure reading measures the pressure in your arteries during a heartbeat (systolic blood pressure or top number) and in between beats (diastolic blood pressure or bottom number).
What do your numbers mean?
- Normal: 120 over 80 and below
- Elevated blood pressure: 120 to 129 over 80 and below
- Stage 1 hypertension: 130 to 139 over 80-89
- Stage 2 hypertension: 140 over 90 and higher
Before 2017, hypertension treatments may not have been recommended until you reached Stage 2. But now, we start taking action when you reach Stage 1 hypertension.
The reasoning behind this change is because you may have more success at improving your high blood pressure during Stage 1 than Stage 2. Additionally, taking action early may prevent the health complications associated with hypertension such as heart disease and kidney disease.
Having hypertension and not knowing it
Hypertension is called the silent killer because it occurs without causing signs or symptoms. You can have high blood pressure for years and not know it. The lack of symptoms is one of the main reasons why so many people have hypertension and don’t know it.
When left undiagnosed and untreated, your elevated blood pressure damages your blood vessels and organs, leading to health complications such as:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Kidney disease
And all it takes is a simple and painless blood pressure check to get in the know.
Though we check your blood pressure at every visit: One elevated reading doesn’t mean you have hypertension. For a diagnosis, we need three above-normal blood pressure readings at three separate visits.
However, if we have concerns about your blood pressure and feel you may be at risk of hypertension, we may recommend you invest in a home blood pressure machine so you can check your numbers at home.
Improving your hypertension
Though hypertension is common and a risk factor for many chronic health conditions, we can help you improve your numbers.
If you have Stage 1 hypertension, we first recommend you make a few changes to your habits and lifestyle to lower your blood pressure readings, such as:
- Eating a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
- Limiting processed foods high in sodium like fast food, canned soups, and frozen meals
- Increasing physical activity
- Smoking cessation
- Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight
- Managing stress with meditation or other relaxation techniques
If lifestyle changes fail to improve your hypertension or you have Stage 2 hypertension, we may prescribe blood pressure medication.
Don’t ignore your health. If you have concerns about hypertension, we can help. Contact us by phone or online today to book a consultation. Telehealth appointments are also available.