Hypertension - Silent Killer
Seabrookers know if they have been reading this column that heart disease and stroke are prevalent in our State, in our County and on Seabrook. You also know that these two diseases can kill or cause significant disability. What Seabrookers should know, but may not is that Hypertension or High Blood Pressure is a leading cause of coronary artery disease and stroke. Hypertension is called the "silent killer" because about one-third of the people with it do not know that they have it.
What is Hypertension?
High blood pressure is easy to diagnose because all that is involved is taking one's blood pressure. If you have a blood pressure over 140/90, that is either a systolic (first number) of 140 or more or diastolic (second number) of 90 or more or a combination of the two above the respective limit then hypertension exists. It is estimated that about one out of every four Americans has hypertension. It is however, a disease without symptoms. This means that the only way to detect it is to have your blood pressure measured by a nurse, physician or another knowledgeable person (including yourself). Because there are no symptoms of high blood pressure and because it is so prevalent in older people you should have it measured at least once a year.
Why is Hypertension Important?
Simply put high blood pressure kills. It kills by contributing to coronary artery disease and precipitating strokes. It is one of the very few risk factors for either of these potentially lethal or debilitating diseases that is treatable. Because high blood pressure is treatable and because so many Americans who are hypertensive and are being treated, this is why many believe that the death rate has declined over time from coronary heart disease and stroke in this country. Patients with hypertension who are treated significantly lower their chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
Treatment of Hypertension
The most important aspect of treating hypertension, of course, is regular checking of one's blood pressure. Your doctor will work closely with you to make recommendations regarding the treatment that is right for you. Certain life-style advice will be given. Lose weight if overweight. Stop smoking if you smoke. Do not drink more than one or two drinks a day - alcohol contributes importantly to hypertension. Exercise has been shown over and over to be important in reducing and controlling hypertension. Diet is very important. Salt intake must be reduced since salt aggravates hypertension. If all of this is done and blood pressure is still high, medicine will be added by your doctor.
There are many, many medicines effective in treating high blood pressure. As with all drugs, each one of us reacts uniquely to the specific drug - both with regard to the therapeutic response and also with regard to side effects. Most of these drugs have side-effects, and they vary in each patient. This is why it is very important for you to tell your doctor how the drug is affecting you besides lowering the blood pressure. It is also very important to take the medicines as instructed and never to run out since in some cases with some of the medicine missing medication can actually cause the blood pressure to return at higher levels. Virtually all patients and their doctor can settle on a drug therapy that has minimal side effects and brings the pressure down to normal.
Seabrookers because of our age and the prevalence of high blood pressure are at risk for the development of high blood pressure - despite living on such a quiet and wonderful island. It is up to us to have our blood pressure measured regularly - our life and lifestyle depend on it.