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Managing Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure needs to be checked, often in fact. Also known as hypertension, it’s not just affecting those who are tense, nervous, or hyperactive. The truth is, you can be a calm, relaxed person and still have hypertension.
High blood pressure tends to run in families and is more likely to affect men than women. Age and race also play a role. In the United States, blacks are twice as likely as whites to have high blood pressure, although the gap begins to narrow around age 44. After age 65, black women have the highest incidence of high blood pressure. The majority of us with high blood pressure are “salt sensitive,” meaning that anything more than the minimal bodily need for salt is too much for them and increases their blood pressure. People who have high blood pressure are four to six times more likely to have a stroke.
Over time, hypertension leads to atherosclerosis and hardening of the large arteries. This, in turn, leads to blockage and weakening of the walls of small blood vessels in the brain, causing them to balloon and burst. Additionally, the risk of stroke is directly related to how high the blood pressure is; 40 to 90 percent of stroke patients have high blood pressure before their stroke event.
High blood pressure is more likely in people who
- have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes
- are African American
- are men age greater than 55 are overweight
- are not physically active drink excessively smoke eat foods high in saturated fats or sodium
- use certain medications such as NSAIDs, decongestants, and illicit drugs such as cocaine
Your doctor should always evaluate unusually low blood pressure readings.
If, while monitoring your blood pressure, you get a systolic reading of 180 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) or higher, or a diastolic reading of 110 mm HG or higher, wait a couple of minutes and take it again. If the reading is still at or above that level, you should seek immediate emergency medical treatment for a hypertensive crisis.
Home monitoring may be especially useful for
- patients starting HBP treatment to determine its effectiveness
- patients requiring closer monitoring than intermittent office visits provide, especially individuals with coronary heart disease, diabetes and/or kidney disease
- pregnant women, since preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension can develop rapidly
- people who have some high readings at the doctor’s office
- elderly patients, because the white-coat effect increases progressively with age
Dr. Jerome Lisk is board certified neurologist with a fellowship in movement disorders, named one of Pasadena Magazine’s Top Docs of 2011. He’s also Chairman and President of Southern California Movement Disorder Specialists. Dr. Lisk is also a medical contributor for healthyblackmen.org.