Quick, name one of the most common symptoms of high blood pressure. Could you do it? If so, you’re probably one of a limited number of people who know that high blood pressure usually has no observable symptoms until it’s in its advanced stages, long after damage from the condition has started. Yet almost half of American adults have some level of hypertension, as many as 103 million people. And many have no idea of the health issue lurking inside them.

An increasing cause of death

In the 10 years between 2005 and 2015, deaths from high blood pressure increased by 38%, even when deaths from heart disease and stroke were falling. Hypertension is such a risk to health in the aging American population that new guidelines published in 2017 lowered the action level for blood pressure. Your BP used to be considered normal if it was 130/80 or lower.

Now, the action point is 120/80. This changing definition is part of the reason why so many American adults have hypertension, but it’s more than just a statistical adjustment. As the potential complications of high blood pressure are better understood, the importance of treating the condition early is more pronounced.

The effects of high blood pressure on your body

When blood pressure is elevated, it increases the stresses experienced by blood vessels throughout your body, as well as the organs to which arteries supply blood. The damage in any one moment may be small, but because your heart beats 24/7, those tiny effects add up with time. The longer that hypertension goes uncontrolled, the greater your risk of irreversible damage.

Left untreated, high blood pressure may lead to such complications as:

  • Aneurysm
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Blood vessel damage in organs, such as your eyes and kidneys
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Dementia
  • Metabolic syndrome

When symptoms of high BP do appear, these can include shortness of breath, headaches, and nosebleeds. However, there are many less serious conditions that have the same symptoms, so connecting these with high BP may not be immediately obvious.

The importance of blood pressure testing

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and a key awareness point is that testing is the only way to accurately know you have high blood pressure. Testing is simple — the check made with an inflatable cuff around your arm.

The test measures two pressures. The maximum pressure occurs when your heart is beating. This is systolic BP, the first and higher number of your BP reading. The diastolic pressure is the minimum level that occurs between heartbeats, expressed as the second, lower number of your reading.

Your BP can vary widely, throughout the day as well as day-to-day. You also may test higher when you visit the doctor, a condition called white-coat hypertension. Home BP meters are affordable, so it’s becoming easy to monitor at home, but this isn’t a substitute for regular doctor visits.

Managing high BP is a partnership between you, Dr. Foye Ikyaator, and the team at Foye MD and Spa. You may be surprised how small changes to your lifestyle — such as losing extra pounds and getting more exercise — can bring your blood pressure down, and if these aren’t enough, there are medications that can help. Contact the Houston, Texas, office by phone or through the booking tool on this website to schedule your hypertension exam today.