Dr. Jennifer Neville explains what high blood pressure is, why it is important to keep it at a normal level, and what treatment options are available.
What is considered high blood pressure or hypertension?
To be diagnosed with hypertension, which is high blood pressure, you actually have to have two readings of above 140 over 90.
Why is keeping your blood pressure at a normal level important?
We’re really trying to prevent heart attacks and strokes. If you live with high blood pressure, it can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and it can damage your eyes. It’s really important that you know about it. It’s a silent killer. People live years and years without knowing that their blood pressure’s actually elevated until they have a heart attack or stroke, so that’s what we’re trying to prevent.
How does high blood pressure affect the body?
It’s actually damaging blood vessels in your body. If you think of a rubber hose or some type of material like that, and it just constantly has a high pressure running through it, it’s causing little areas of damage all over that hose and damaging the blood vessel. That’s happening all over the body in the blood vessels in your eyes, going to your kidneys, and around your heart. It’s damaging those things, and over time that can cause aneurysms and organ damage. High blood pressure is just causing damage all over.
What are some treatment options for high blood pressure?
There are lots of different medicines we can use to treat that. Sometimes, if a patient has another problem that maybe that medicine will help too, we try to choose a medicine that would do two things.
Are medications the only treatment options for high blood pressure?
Absolutely not. There’s a lot of things that the patient can do themselves. If they smoke, quit smoking because smoking can elevate blood pressure. It’s okay to have an alcoholic drink here and there, but if you’re consistently drinking alcohol that can elevate the blood pressure. Being overweight or eating a high-salt or processed-food diet can elevate blood pressure too. I have some patients who are dead set and do not want to take a medicine. I talk to them about the risk and what is happening to their body. I say, “Let’s get it controlled now, and then let’s work on these other things. Diet, exercise…adding all those things, and I promise if you lose this weight, and the pressure’s coming down, we can stop this medicine. You don’t have to take it forever.” I call that a success when someone comes in, they’ve lost weight, and their blood pressure’s actually lower. We can peel off those medicines. That makes my day.
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