Protect yourself against a “silent killer” by knowing the facts. Although millions of Americans are afflicted by high blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension, it largely remains as a silent killer because of the absence of symptoms. Thus, you may be walking around with a HBP without even knowing it.
HBP is a known leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and chronic kidney diseases (CKD). On one hand, chronic kidney diseases also cause HBP. The good news is HBP can be controlled! And it follows that if you are in control you minimize the risk of these complications. Recommended measures to control HBP include: losing excess weight, consuming less salt, getting more active, and quitting the cigarettes.
But before going any further let us define HBP. According to MedicineNet HBP occurs when repeated elevated blood pressure exceeds 140 over 90 mmHg (systolic pressure above 140 with a diastolic pressure above 90). It further states that it can cause blood vessel changes in the retina, thickening of the heart muscle, kidney failure and brain damage.
In relation to kidney diseases, HBP speeds up the loss of kidney function. Tests to find out kidney damage as a result of HBP include measuring the amount of protein in the urine and by estimating the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) from a blood test. Normal functioning kidneys keep protein in the body. However, damaged kidneys result to protein leaking into urine. Persistent protein in the urine occurs when two positive tests for protein is detected in the urine over several weeks. Meanwhile, a low GFR means your kidneys are not capable of removing wastes from your body.
These tests are very important because most people who have HBP don’t even know that they are sick because of the absence of symptoms. Sometimes, repeated headaches may occur in people with HBP or they may experience changes in their vision.
The good news is although HBP cannot be cured, it can be CONTROLLED. Here are some suggested measures to help control HBP:
- Lose excess weight and exercise more
- Cut down on salt intake
- Cut down on alcohol intake
- Increase intake of calcium. Prefer low-fat dairy products such as milk and yogurt
- Quit smoking
- Increase potassium intake by eating more nuts, raisins and certain fruits and vegetables. Those with CKD should consult their doctors before changing their potassium intake
Follow lifestyle changes you have discussed with your doctor. However, if these changes do not help lower your blood pressure, your doctor might prescribe medications. At times, a combination of medication is needed to reach the target blood pressure. Those with diabetes or CKD are sometimes given medication that help protect kidney functions. These are called ACE (angiotensin converting enzymes) inhibitors or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers).
It helps if you are proactive with your health. See your doctor regularly and have your blood pressure checked. If you have HBP work with your doctor on how to control it. Discuss with him lifestyle changes you need to make in areas of getting active and eating properly. When you are being proactive, you protect yourself from this silent killer.
(The next article will discuss managing your HBP when you have been diagnosed with a CKD or a kidney problem.)*