The heart is less about love and more about pumping blood. Love can be bloody—we suppose—but as much fun as figurative language surrounding the heart is, this fist-size muscle is here on important business. And it does a lot more than simply flutter when we find our one true love; it keeps our bodies active and our tissues oxygenated so that every other function of our bodies can carry on. The anatomical complexity of this bloody pump has fascinated physicians for centuries.
Without the heart’s contributions and oxygen being distributed throughout our tissues, we wouldn’t get very far. And yet, like so many aspects of our health, it depends on various processes and mechanisms to maintain a delicate balance and function properly. Hypertension is a shift in the heart’s function, and here’s what you need to know and how to make sure you’re treating any related problems.
Hypertension Statistics: An Overview of the Silent Killer
Often referred to as the silent killer, hypertension is not very silent these days, as more and more Americans become aware of the dangers of untreated high blood pressure. According to the CDC, high blood pressure was a contributing cause of death for more than 494,873 people in the United States in 2018. At the same time, it is a costly disease that costs about $131 billion a year. High blood pressure also has some recognizable patterns. More men seem to suffer from the condition than do women. As far as demographics, black non-Hispanic adults suffer the most from this condition at 54%.
What is Hypertension — What Does High Blood Pressure Mean?
This question is common among many of our patients, especially patients that have seen hypertension in their families. The term is thrown around quite often, but it helps to know what hypertension means as it relates to your body.
Your heart has a key function and that is to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body and ‘deliver’ it to the tissues via the circulatory system. At the same time, your heart takes non-oxygenated blood and pumps it into the lungs so that it can become oxygenated and then return to the body tissues. So it is a delicate and endless cycle of delivering oxygen, picking up wastes, and then doing it all over again until the moment you take your last breath.
The Two Circulatory Circuits
So think of it this way. Your heart is split into two main parts: the left heart and the right heart. Each side has two chambers that contribute to the passage of blood. One side feeds into the systemic circuit and the other feeds into the pulmonary circuit. Each side of the heart corresponds to one of these circuits.
- The right heart pumps blood into the pulmonary circuit, which sends blood into the lungs to pick up oxygen.
- The left heart pumps blood into the systemic circuit, which pushes blood into the rest of the body so that tissues can get their oxygen delivery.
So when your heart is pumping more blood into the systemic circuit than it should, it is not only working harder but it is increasing the pressure in the arteries. If there is increased blood resistance or narrowed arteries, then the internal pressure of those arteries increases.
The Blood Pressure Reading
So the blood pressure reading that a doctor takes at the office has two different numbers.
- The top number (systolic pressure): This measures the pressure in your arteries when your heartbeats.
- The bottom number (diastolic pressure): This measures the pressure in arteries in between beats.
These two numbers indicate where your blood pressure is on the spectrum and provide your physician with important information about how to proceed. This chart from the MayoClinic expresses some of the common numbers seen in patients and what they mean.
- Normal blood pressure: Has a top number below 120 and a bottom number below 80.
- Elevated blood pressure: Has a top number between 120-129 and a bottom number below 80.
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: Has a top number of 130-139 or a bottom number below 80.
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: Has a top number 140 or higher or a bottom number of 90 or higher
High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, or even cognitive decline. Many physicians today are working with patients to bring those numbers down and help people mitigate their lifestyle to prevent the problem from growing.
Symptoms and Treatments
So what’s the good news? The good news about high blood pressure is that word has gotten out. Most people today are highly aware that this is something they need to pay attention to. Getting your blood pressure checked and monitored regularly is a great way to maintain a record and history that makes it easy to detect a change. People can go years with high blood pressure and no noticeable or debilitating symptoms, so people are often not aware of their high blood pressure. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, headaches, nosebleeds, chest pains, fatigue, and confusion.
Today, a routine check-up will detect this and give your doctor information about treatments and/or lifestyle changes. Small changes that can help mitigate the problem include:
- Getting more exercise
- Lowering sodium intake
- Less alcohol
- Relieve stress
Keep an Eye on Blood Pressure and Improve Your Life!
Here at Transmountain Primary clinic, our goal is to work with the community to help educate and teach about ways to prevent chronic health conditions, mitigate them, and learn about solutions. If caught early, high blood pressure can be controlled and improved.
Looking for ways to improve your lifestyle and health? Call Transmountain Primary today.
The above is not a substitute for medical advice. It is merely for informational purposes. Always consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise regimens or treatments.