The trend lines aren’t promising.
“If you look at graphs over the last 20 years or so, the rate of hypertension has gone up steadily. And we do a better job or recognizing it, and a better job or treating it, but we don’t do a better job of controlling it,” says Dr. Brian Taschner, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Partly because most people really don’t understand hypertension or high blood pressure. Blood pressure refers to the force with which the blood is pushed through the circulatory system. If the pressure gets too high, forcing the body to work too hard, bad things can happen.
“It has been shown to lead to increase risk of stoke, and heart attack, and even death,” says Dr. Elizabeth Cosmai- Cintron, cardiologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Here’s a quick quiz that could help raise your blood pressure IQ.
First: men and women face equal risk. That’s true, over time. “By age 60 men and women start to have similar risk. Most women may not even realize they’re at risk, until they’re told by their physician,” says Dr. Cosmai- Cintron.
And true or false: staying away from the saltshaker lowers your risk. That would be false. “We have to remember that salt or sodium doesn’t just come out of the salt shaker. It often comes in prepared foods. It comes in a can, whether its soup or green beans it usually is preserved with salt or sodium,” says Dr. Richard Chazal, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Finally: only medications can lower blood pressure, again that’s false. Lifestyle makes a huge difference. In fact the DASH diet was developed to lower blood pressure.
“Right, so the DASH diet looks at fruits and vegetables and low fat dairy. And even patients that had normal blood pressure had about a 5 point reduction in their blood pressure, and people that were hypertensive had about a 10 point decrease,” says Dr. Taschner.
A final point to ponder, high blood pressure has no symptoms, so it’s best to get a reading and know where you stand.