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Five Truths about Hypertension

May 31, 2013 10:41AM ● By tina

Healthy lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure.

Submitted by LaKisha Miller, Baylor Health Care System

Approximately 1 in 3 American adults has high blood pressure.  In recognition of High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, Phillip Hecht, MD, a cardiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine, presents these basic truths about hypertension.

1. Blood pressure is actually two separate measurements.

Expressed in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), the top number, systolic blood pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The bottom number, diastolic blood pressure, is the lowest blood pressure in the arteries, which occurs between heartbeats.

2. Your blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day.

According to the American Heart Association, the optimal reading for adults is 120/80 mmHg; 140/90 or higher is considered hypertension. Because your numbers move up and down, a one-time reading in the doctor’s office won’t show the big picture. It is recommended to measure it over time to determine whether it’s remaining steady or inching slowly upward.

3. Hypertension has no symptoms.

In fact, you could have it for years and not know it. Young or old, even if you “feel fine,” have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. Left untreated, hypertension can lead to serious complications you don’t want to face: heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease.

4. Lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure.

Quitting smoking, achieving a healthy weight and exercising regularly are a great start. Salt is a major culprit. Aim for 2,300 mg or less daily. You can follow a low-sodium diet like the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Simply decreasing salt in your diet may lower your systolic blood pressure by 10 points.

5. Medication may also be needed.

Even with lifestyle modifications, controlling hypertension may require medication. Your doctor may prescribe one or a combination based on your age, medical history and ethnicity. In African Americans, for example, hypertension tends to be more difficult to control, and certain medications are more effective than others.

Know Your Numbers

See your doctor regularly to stay on top of your blood pressure. If you need help finding a primary care physician or a specialist, visit Find Dr. Right or Baylor Health, Grapevine.

About Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine

Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine is a full-service, fully-accredited not-for-profit hospital serving residents in more than 20 cities throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth region. Focused on being the best place to give and receive quality, safe and compassionate care, Baylor Grapevine works to lead the transformation of health care. The 273-bed hospital offers advanced medical services for cardiovascular services, women’s services, oncology, neurology, spine care, orthopedics, diagnostic imaging, neonatal intensive care, intensive and emergency care.

About Baylor Health Care System

Baylor Health Care System is a not-for-profit, faith-based supporting organization providing services to a network of acute care hospitals and related health care entities that provide patient care, medical education, research and community service. Baylor recorded more than 2.8 million patient encounters, $4.1 billion in total operating revenue, $5.3 billion in total assets and $502 million in community benefit in fiscal year 2011 (as reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services).  Baylor’s network of more than 300 access points includes 30 owned/operated/ ventured/affiliated hospitals; joint ventured ambulatory surgical centers; satellite outpatient locations; senior centers and more than 190 HealthTexas Provider Network physician clinics.