There is no question that the past year has, for the most part, been a stressful time for many. Stress, among its many harmful effects on health, also tends to elevate blood pressure—regardless of your age. While there are many practical things you can do to relax and de-stress, the purpose of this article is to help inform you on a topic that is often dangerously overlooked: high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer
So you might wonder: Why should I pay attention to my blood pressure if I feel perfectly fine? This is because chronic high blood pressure, a condition known as hypertension, is a condition so insidious that it is often called the ‘silent disease,’ or even more bluntly, the ‘silent killer.’ It is silent because some people can actually have dangerously high blood pressure levels while going about their day feeling completely fine. The reason for this is simple: your body has an incredible ability to acclimate. While a sudden jump in blood pressure (say, from acute stress) can cause headache or fatigue, if it remains elevated, the symptoms soon go away. However, its damaging effects do not, so if you are not aware of it, you can end up falling victim to the silent disease.
Hypertension is serious; when not controlled well, the condition puts significant stress on almost all of your organs. This eventually leads to damage of your blood vessels, heart, kidney, and even your eyes and vision.
If you already have a heart condition, high blood pressure puts even more stress on the heart and speeds up the worsening of the condition. For everyone, young and old, severe hypertension increases your risk of experiencing a serious health event, such as a hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in your brain). If you have diabetes, untreated hypertension can lead to even more serious diabetes-related complications, such as neuropathy, kidney failure, and vision loss. In men, hypertension can also lead to erectile dysfunction.
All this is to say that blood pressure that is not adequately controlled will lead to worsening of your chronic conditions as well as cause new health problems. On the other hand, by doing your part to make sure that it stays in a healthy range, you can stop many diseases from worsening, and for some…even help reverse their course.
Fortunately, there are many practical things that you can do on a daily basis to help ensure that your blood pressure stays in a healthy range. In this article, I discuss what they are.
*The information presented in “High Blood Pressure: What Everyone Needs to Know” can be found in Being Empowered for a Healthy Heart: A personal guide to taking control of your health while living with chronic conditions, by Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH.