Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure or hypertension, or as it is sometimes called, “the silent killer.” Because high blood pressure may have no outward signs or symptoms, many people don’t know they have it.1 It also develops slowly over time and at any age. Keep reading to explore more about high blood pressure and what you can do about it.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is when the pressure of your blood pumping against the walls of your arteries is regularly too high. Increased pressure on the arteries and heart over time makes your heart work harder and not as efficiently.2 Having high blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.3
Are there signs and symptoms of high blood pressure?
There are many misconceptions about what people think are signs of elevated blood pressure. Unfortunately, the condition isn’t obvious, and there are often no symptoms until blood pressure is dangerously high.4
What are the risk factors?
Some people and groups are at greater risk of having high blood pressure. This includes:5
- People with a family history of high blood pressure
- Older adults
- African Americans
- People with chronic kidney disease
- People with diabetes, high cholesterol or sleep apnea
There are also lifestyle factors that increase your risk for high blood pressure, like:
- Low physical activity
- A high-sodium, low-nutrient diet
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Being overweight or obese
How do I know if I have high blood pressure?
A healthcare professional has to diagnose high blood pressure. Since it can’t be detected through symptoms, your blood pressure has to be measured using a blood pressure monitor and cuff.
So, have your blood pressure numbers checked regularly by a healthcare professional. Starting at the age of 20, the American Heart Association recommends getting it checked every two years if it’s within the normal range of 120/80 mmHg.6 Your doctor may want to monitor your blood pressure more often depending on your numbers. This may include having you take readings with an at-home blood pressure monitor.
To better understand what your blood pressure numbers mean, learn about healthy and unhealthy blood pressure ranges from the American Heart Association.
How do I manage or prevent high blood pressure?
High blood pressure can’t be cured. The good news is that medications and lifestyle changes can help keep blood pressure under control.
Improve what you put in your body
Now that you know that high blood pressure and heart disease can sneak up on you, let’s look at what you can do to make sure it doesn’t.
First and foremost, it’s important to avoid smoking and heavy alcohol use, which can put unnecessary stress on your body and heart. If you feel like your smoking or drinking is a problem, a Teladoc therapist or doctor can help.
Next, being at a healthy weight is important for a healthy cardiovascular system. Nearly three-quarters of Americans are obese or overweight, which increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.7,8 And while there may be a genetic component to these conditions, you can reduce your disease risk and work toward a healthy weight by eating a well-balanced diet.
- Start by cutting down on saturated and trans fats in fried, buttery and processed foods, including cakes and cookies.
- Limit or avoid sodium-rich foods and sugary drinks.
- Instead, focus on eating meals and snacks that are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, such as vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, nuts and whole grains. These sensible food choices will keep you fuller longer and can improve your heart health.
A dietitian can help you work toward a heart-healthy diet.
Move your body
Being active can help to lower both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.9
By burning calories through exercise, you can realize a number of cardiovascular benefits, including:10
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Improving circulation
- Reducing coronary heart disease risk
In addition to all these heart-friendly benefits, exercise can help prevent bone loss, improve sleep, boost energy levels and manage stress.
The link between stress and high blood pressure is still being studied. We do know that stress impacts other conditions and behaviors like obesity, smoking and alcohol use, which can affect blood pressure. Finding ways to reduce and manage your stress is critical for your health.
- Practice self-care
- Journal and find other ways to release your feelings
- Practice deep breathing, meditation or yoga
- Go to therapy or counseling
Focus on what you can control
Certain risk factors for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease can’t be changed. But for the most part, heart health is within your control. It starts with making small lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact and sticking with those changes for the long term.
A strong relationship with your primary care doctor and larger healthcare team can also help guide you through activities such as smoking cessation, starting an exercise routine, following a heart-healthy diet and reducing stress.
And remember that Teladoc is available 24/7 anywhere in the U.S. to help you manage your and your family’s non-urgent medical needs. Download our convenient app to your phone or tablet now.
From nutrition to mental health, here are all the ways we can help.
Updated December 22, 2022