May is High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, making it a great time to reflect on this common disease and how to prevent and treat it.
High Blood Pressure, also known as hypertension, affects 45% of adults in the United States. And risk increases with age—in fact, 9 out of 10 Americans will have high blood pressure at some point in their lives. Since so many people are affected, it can be tempting to brush off this diagnosis as unimportant. However, high blood pressure is a serious condition that requires treatment to prevent serious complications like heart attack. This treatment often comes in the form of prescription medication.
What is High Blood Pressure?
If you have high blood pressure, it means that there is more pressure than usual in your arteries. The most common causes of this are your heart pumping faster, a narrowing of your arteries due to plaque, and overall bodily stress.
Blood pressure is usually measured using a cuff and represented in a fraction. The top number (systolic) measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, while the bottom number (diastolic) measures the pressure in your arteries between beats.
Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure
While almost anyone can develop high blood pressure, there are several risk factors that could make you more likely to develop it.
The most important risk factors include:
- Unhealthy diet (particularly one high in salt and low in potassium)
- Physical inactivity
- Being overweight
- Alcohol use
- Tobacco use
- Family history of high blood pressure
High Blood Pressure Complications
While high blood pressure usually does not present symptoms, it can damage blood vessels and lead to complications that are far more serious. Some of the complications high blood pressure can lead to are:
- Heart attack
- Heart Disease
- Trouble with memory and understanding
How to Prevent High Blood Pressure
The Centers for Disease Control outline several lifestyle changes that can increase heart health and help prevent high blood pressure:
- Decrease salt and saturated fat intake
- Stay physically active
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco
- Get enough sleep
Prescription Drugs That Can Help
There are many prescription drugs that can help lower blood pressure and thus reduce the risk of high blood pressure’s complications, such as heart attack and stroke. A few frequently prescribed medications include:
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