A report published in JAMA states uncontrolled high blood pressure has risen 10% in 2017-2018 from just a few years prior (2013-2014).
Study authors looked at 18,262 adults with high blood pressure and found the proportion of Americans whose blood pressure was “under control” dropped from 53.8 percent to 43.7 percent.
Blood pressure over 140/90 was felt to be out of control. Using current guidelines of maintaining blood pressure under 130/80, study authors only found 19% of Americans to be under control.
What concerns medical professionals such as myself is the COVID pandemic prevented many with high blood pressure from seeing their health care providers regularly, hence the number of Americans with uncontrolled blood pressure may be even higher this year.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, has long been known as the “silent killer” as many can’t feel when their blood pressure is high, subsequently succumbing to its deleterious effects on the body.
However, for some people, it’s not completely “silent.” High blood pressure could cause some easily recognizable symptoms due to some of the organ damage it is causing.
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased urine output
- Blood in the urine
- Vision changes
- “Pounding” in the ears
- Bubbly, foamy urine
What do the blood pressure numbers mean?
The top number, or systolic pressure, is the pressure the heart exudes during a beat or pumping of the blood.
Diastolic pressure is the pressure in your arteries between beats while the heart is “filling”.
Both numbers are equally important as elevation of either can increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
What blood pressure level is considered “normal” or “abnormal”?
High blood pressure has now been redefined as being greater than 130/80 mmHg, down from 140/90 mmHg. In 2018 it was guestimated that 42% of Americans would soon be considered “hypertensive”.
What can long-term high blood pressure cause?
Chronic high blood pressure can be dangerous. It may cause:
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Eye damage – vision loss
- Erectile dysfunction…to name a few.
How do we treat high blood pressure?
The stages of blood pressure are defined in the chart above. At the elevated or early stages of high blood pressure the following lifestyle changes will be recommended:
- Weight loss
- Low salt diet
- Low fat diet
- Good sleep habits
- Regular exercise
- Avoiding tobacco products
- Limiting alcohol consumption
As a family physician, I would also screen for diabetes, high cholesterol, low thyroid, kidney disease and sleep apnea.
If blood pressure cannot be controlled and continues to rise, medications may be prescribed to decrease blood volume, or lower the heart rate, or relax the blood vessels.