Hypertension: Know Your Numbers

Pictured above is Dr. Matthew Roberts, primary care physician at Piedmont Physicians at White Oak in Newnan.

From Piedmont Newnan Hospital

High blood pressure: Just another symptom or secret, silent killer? You could be walking around with a silent, deadly health condition that affects the brain, kidneys and heart – and not even know it.

“Many people don’t realize how serious high blood pressure is because most people who have high blood pressure do not have symptoms,” says Matthew Roberts, D.O., a Piedmont primary care physician at Piedmont Physicians at White Oak in Newnan.

Dr. Roberts says research has shown people with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) are four times more likely to have a stroke and three times more likely to have coronary artery disease.

Understanding your blood pressure reading

When you go to the doctor, someone will usually check your blood pressure and give you two numbers:

• The top number = systolic pressure, which is your blood pressure when your heart is beating.
• The bottom number = diastolic pressure, which is your blood pressure when your heart is resting between beats.

“Those numbers are very important,” he says.

What happens when you have hypertension

High blood pressure puts a strain not only on your blood vessels, but also your organs – particularly the brain and the heart.

• Your heart: If you live for years with uncontrolled high blood pressure, your heart can become enlarged and eventually go into heart failure.
• Your brain: Uncontrolled hypertension can also lead to stroke.

Why blood pressure can fluctuate

“It’s very normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate during the day in response to anxiety and stress, but as long as it comes back down to normal, that is the most important thing,” says Dr. Roberts.

If your blood pressure consistently remains high, you are at risk for health problems.

High blood pressure risk factors

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

• Being overweight or obese
• Smoking
• A family history of hypertension (particularly if one or both of your parents had high blood pressure)

Fortunately, if you do have risk factors for high blood pressure or currently have hypertension, there is hope.

“I’ve had patients who have made lifestyle changes, who have lost weight and whose blood pressure came back to normal,” Dr. Roberts says. “Losing weight, eating healthy and making healthy choices day to day can reduce your risk and also possibly stop some blood pressure medications.”

A yearly physical can help you stay on top of your blood pressure numbers and take steps to reduce your risk factors. To schedule an appointment or learn more on the topic of hypertension, visit piedmont.org/annualphysical.

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