You’ve heard of hypertension and its multiple dangers. It’s a significant risk factor for heart disease, and uncontrolled high blood pressure (the condition that “hypertension” describes) can boost the risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia, and more.
But is all hypertension created equal? Can you control it? And what happens if you do?
There are different types of hypertension. One is called secondary hypertension and is caused by an existing identifiable health condition. It could be kidney disease or another identifiable illness.
Essential hypertension, or primary, is the other. This type of hypertension is not the result of a secondary cause and is generally attributable to genetics and/or lifestyle traits. Diet, stress, low levels of physical activity, and weight are all causes of essential hypertension.
More than its ability to take your life, its stealth operation is what makes hypertension so scary. You can’t really feel it or notice it coming on without regular monitoring.
However, there are some things you can look for to give you an idea of where blood pressure is headed. Blood pressure builds slowly over time, and the sooner you’re aware of managing it, the better off you are likely to be. That said, efforts at any age can yield positive results.
According to the American Heart Association, hypertension occurs when blood pressure reaches or exceeds a systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg (130/80 mm Hg).
Without measuring your blood pressure, it is impossible to know exactly what it is or where it’s going. That said, your lifestyle can offer some insight.
If you’re getting regular physical activity, eat a variety of fruit and vegetables each day, sleep well, manage stress, and avoid smoking, you are likely at little risk for essential hypertension.
On the other hand, if you smoke, live a sedentary life, drink excessively, eat plenty of processed foods, or are overweight, you are at high risk of primary hypertension, and your blood pressure is likely trending upwards without intervention.
Knowing these facts can help you manage blood pressure and potentially avoid future health problems. You can start working on improving your blood pressure today to enjoy the benefits tomorrow.