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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.

“People don’t realize how serious high blood pressure is because most people who have high blood pressure do not have symptoms,” says Omotayo Akinmade, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont. 

Dr. Akinmade 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.

 

Systolic (top number)

Diastolic (bottom number)

Normal blood pressure

Less than 120

Less than 80

Prehypertension

120-139

80-89

High blood pressure (stage I)

140-159

90-99

High blood pressure (stage II)

160+

100+

Hypertensive crisis (emergency care required)

180+

110+

What happens when you have hypertension

High blood pressure puts a strain not only 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. Akinmade.

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,” he says. “Losing weight, eating healthy and making healthy choices day to day can reduce your risk.”

A yearly physical can help you stay on top of your blood pressure numbers and take steps to reduce your risk factors.

Dr. Akinmade practices at Piedmont Physicians Family Medicine at Stockbridge, located at 150 Eagle Spring Court, Suite A, Stockbridge, GA 30281. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Akinmade or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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