High blood pressure is a phrase that is thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? Sure, the technical definition of blood pressure is “the force of blood thorough the walls of arteries and blood vessels,” and, thus, the higher the blood pressure, the more strain it puts on those arteries and blood vessels. But how harmful is it really? How much damage can high blood pressure cause? The answer is frightening, and the dangers of high blood pressure are many.
“Uncontrolled high blood pressure, or hypertension, is referred to as a ‘silent killer,’” said Blount Memorial board-certified cardiologist Dr. Andrew DeNazareth. “It’s called this because symptoms of high blood pressure can go unnoticed until a patient has a heart attack, stroke or other major medical problem. If the force of your blood pressure is higher than normal, it can lead to excessive stretching of the arteries, which can, in turn, cause damage to vital organs like the heart, the brain, the eyes, the kidneys or the aorta – the artery that leaves your heart and pumps blood to your muscles and organs,” DeNazareth explained. “High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, arrhythmia, shortness of breath, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure and aortic aneurysms, among other extremely serious and life-threatening conditions,” he added.
“High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure in the United States,” DeNazareth continued. “It also can cause erectile dysfunction and cramping in the legs due to the damage done to the blood vessels in the legs. These dangers are all reasons why people need to get their blood pressure checked regularly and know their numbers. When you have repeated blood pressure readings greater than 140/90, you need to see your doctor. If you’re regularly testing at levels above 120/80, you may be experiencing pre-hypertension, and you also should consult your physician,” he explained.
One surefire way to keep up with their numbers is to monitor your blood pressure at home. “Home blood pressure monitoring kits and those available to use at public pharmacies and fitness facilities can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure levels,” DeNazareth said. “However, it’s also critical to maintain regular physician visits, so that your blood pressure is being checked by a professional who can monitor changes, interpret results and offer strategies to help you control your blood pressure if it is high. Still, there also are some steps you can take before and after you check your levels,” he said. “Medications can help you keep your levels under control. There are multiple categories of blood pressure medications that can be carefully chosen by your physician to fit your individual needs. However, there also are some lifestyle modifications you can make to better manage your risk for high blood pressure, including reducing the amount of salt in your diet, getting more physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco use. These changes, along with regular monitoring of your levels, could help save your life,” he added.
DeNazareth sees patients at East Tennessee Medical Group. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 865-984-3864.