I feel fine! Do I really need to take blood pressure medication?
This is a question that actually comes up fairly often at the clinic. The reason that we treat high blood pressure (HBP) is not because your HBP makes you “feel bad.” We treat it because we are trying to prevent damage to vital organs such as your heart, kidneys, and brain. This damage is often caused by years of strain to the organ, caused by increased pressure. Increased pressure significantly increases your risk for congestive heart failure, stroke, bleeding in the brain, heart disease (including heart attacks), and kidney failure that requires dialysis.
What increases your risk?
There are several things that can increase your risk of developing HBP. Some of the things we cannot control are growing older, our race, or genetics. For example, did/does one of your parents have HBP?
However, there are also things that can cause HBP that we often do have control over. Some of these things include having too much salt in your diet, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight, or not getting enough exercise.
One thing to remember is that having an occasional blood pressure reading that is elevated, or having high numbers only when you go to the doctor’s office, does not necessarily mean that you have HBP. But if you consistently have pressure readings where the top number is higher than 140 or the bottom number is higher than 90, you should take steps towards getting your blood pressure under control before it has a chance to cause permanent damage.
How can I lower my blood pressure?
There are several things that you can do to help lower your pressure without having to start on a medication:
1.) Reduce your salt intake
2.) Lose a little weight
4.) Limit your alcohol intake
Controlling these factors can all help lower your blood pressure. If those changes are not sufficient to lower your pressure to an acceptable level, there are many safe medications that can be used. Although no one likes taking extra medications, remember that ‘an ounce of prevention is often worth a pound of cure’ if we can prevent some of the serious consequences of high blood pressure.
American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure
American Academy of Family Physicians: https://familydoctor.org/condition/high-blood-pressure/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm
Reference: Basile, J., Bloch, M. J. (2019). Overview of Hypertension in Adults. In G. L. Bakris & W. B. White (Eds.), UpToDate. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-hypertension-in-adults