If you are living with high blood pressure or are concerned about a family member or friend with high blood pressure, you’re in good company.
Over one third of all American adults have high blood pressure, and if left uncontrolled, the condition can lead to a range of health problems including heart disease and stroke.
Your physician can help you put together a plan to tackle your high blood pressure through lifestyle changes and medication, if necessary.
At the same time, knowing more about high blood pressure can help empower you to prevent the condition from damaging your health or that of a loved one.
To start, here are 5 common myths about high blood pressure:
I feel fine, so it’s not a big deal
High blood pressure is often called a “silent killer” for a reason. Millions of Americans with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it, because they don’t feel any symptoms. However, left untreated, high blood pressure can cause many health problems down the line. High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, heart, kidneys, and other organs. Heart disease and stroke caused by high blood pressure are the first and fifth leading causes of death in the US. High blood pressure IS a big deal, especially because you might not see it coming.
High blood pressure runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it
It’s true that high blood pressure can run in families. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, you’re more likely to develop it as well. However, even if your genes make you more susceptible to high blood pressure, you can avoid it through your habits and behaviors. Making the right lifestyle choices can put you back in the driver’s seat and regain control over your health.
I don’t add salt to my food, so I am controlling my sodium intake
This is only partly true. Eating high amounts of sodium can increase blood pressure, but the salt shaker is not the only place the salt in your diet comes from. Up to 75% of the sodium we consume is hidden in processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods, and prepared mixes. So in addition to limiting the salt you add at the dinner table, also read the labels when you buy prepared or prepackaged foods.
Alcohol is good for your heart, so I drink it to help lower blood pressure
Some studies have shown that drinking alcohol in moderation can improve heart health. However, heavy and regular drinking of alcohol actually raise blood pressure dramatically, as well as cause heart failure, lead to stroke and irregular heartbeats. If you must drink, limit yourself to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. One drink is 12 oz of beer, a 4oz glass of wine, or 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor.
My blood pressure readings are lower now, so I can stop taking my medication
Unfortunately, for many people, high blood pressure can be a condition that lasts throughout their lives. If you stop taking your medication, it can result in your blood pressure creeping back up. So it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations, even if that means continuing to take medication.
High blood pressure is a serious issue, but by learning as much as you can, taking the right precautions, and changing your lifestyle, you can successfully reach your treatment goals and enjoy better health. Got more questions on high blood pressure? Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our world class doctors!