While one in three Americans has high blood pressure, only 54% are effectively treating their condition. Complications from high blood pressure contribute to 1,000 deaths a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disease is often called “the silent killer” because it doesn’t show any obvious symptoms. However, failure to receive treatment will place you at higher risk for strokes, heart damage and kidney damage.
How does your circulatory system work?
Your circulatory system is an amazing, complicated and efficient way your body delivers oxygen and nutrients to every part of your body. Following is a simplified version of how it works.
Your heart consists of four chambers: the left and right atrium (which are the upper chambers) and the left and right ventricle (the lower chambers). When the heart relaxes, blood flows from the atria to the ventricles. Then the ventricles pump, sending oxygen-rich blood to the arteries.
The arteries send blood throughout your body’s network of capillaries, where it releases nutrients. The blood then gathers carbon dioxide and returns to the heart through the veins where the process starts over again.
What do the numbers on your blood pressure reading mean?
When one of our doctors measures your blood pressure, he or she will give you two numbers. One is the systolic number (the upper number). This is the number that is stated first. The second number is the diastolic number. For example, if your doctor says your blood pressure is “120 over 80,” the first number, 120, is the systolic number, and the second number of your blood pressure reading is the diastolic number (80 in this example). An easy way to remember it is that both diastolic and down begin with “d.”
- The systolic blood pressure shows how much pressure your blood pushes against your arteries during a heartbeat.
- The diastolic number measures the pressure when the heart is at rest.
While both numbers are very important, physicians examine the top number as a major risk factor, and may—depending upon the individual situation—give more attention to it. However, if either the upper or lower number is elevated, your internist can make a diagnosis of high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.
Typically, more attention is given to systolic blood pressure (the top number) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term build-up of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
However, elevated systolic or diastolic blood pressure alone may be used to make a diagnosis of high blood pressure. And, according to recent studies, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89.
What constitutes high or low blood pressure?
Following is a useful chart from the Centers for Disease Control:
|Blood Pressure Levels||Numbers|
|Normal||Systolic (upper number) – less than 120
Diastolic (lower number) – less than 80
|Prehypertension (higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of high blood pressure)||Systolic – 120 to 139
Diastolic – 80 to 89
|High||Systolic – 140 or higher
Diastolic – 90 or higher
Who is at greater risk for developing high blood pressure?
- Those with a relative who has high blood pressure.
- Those over 65.
- Women are at greater risk than men.
- African Americans, particularly if the disease runs in the family.
- Those leading a sedentary lifestyle.
- Those who eat too much salt.
A blood pressure evaluation should be a part of everyone’s yearly physical.
How can internists in Raleigh help with high blood pressure?
At Raleigh Medical Group we specialize in treating chronic diseases like high blood pressure, and internists are in a unique position to help you. Internists are doctors who specialize in internal medicine. This specialty looks at the overall functioning of your body and how a problem in one area can affect your overall health. Our internists are also experts at treating patients who have multiple chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies and high cholesterol.
Are you interested in more information on high blood pressure? Check out our previous blog post on Five Complications of High Blood Pressure.