Are you at risk of the silent killer, hypertension? You might be surprised...
Here’s what you need to know to help protect yourself and your loved ones
You might not think you are a candidate for hypertension - aka high blood pressure - but with a staggering 1 in 8 blood pressure checks in Australia measuring as hypertensive (i.e blood pressure is too high), you could be at risk without even knowing it. You see, this is the problem with high blood pressure - you don’t know you have it until (sometimes) it’s too late. This is why it’s referred to as “the silent killer”.
The good news is the test to show if you are at risk is super quick and painless. Reliable medical-grade blood pressure checks are available at all Priceline Pharmacy Health Stations, or you can speak to your local Priceline Pharmacist about having your blood pressure checked. Too easy! So don’t put it off until next week. You might be surprised to hear hypertension is, in fact the world’s number 1 cause of death by disease, according to the WHO - World Health Organisation - so now really is the best time to have that check-up, not later. The good news is the test to show if you are at risk is super quick and painless. It is also simple to treat and manage.
What is hypertension?
It means the force of the blood pushing on the blood vessel walls is too high. When someone has high blood pressure it means their heart has to pump harder and the arteries - blood vessels that carry the blood away from the heart - are under greater strain as they carry blood. Hypertension can be mild, moderate, or severe. Many factors can naturally increase your blood pressure temporarily, such as exertion from physical exercise, stress, smoking, caffeine, pregnancy, certain foods, and even how much water you've had to drink that day! It is only a concern if your blood pressure is consistently high when you are at rest because this means your heart is working too hard and your arteries are under too much stress. This can lead to heart attacks, stroke and premature death.
What does a blood pressure check actually do?
The inflatable cuff you pop on your arm is connected to an instrument called a sphygmomanometer which gives two important measurements: Systolic which is the highest pressure against the arteries as the heart pumps (normal is usually between 110 and 130mmHg) and Diastolic which is the pressure against the arteries as the heart relaxes and fills with blood (normal is usually between 70 and 80mmHg)
Are there any warning signs I should look out for?
Unfortunately no, there are no obvious signs, which is why having your blood pressure measured regularly is essential - and possibly life-saving. When symptoms do occur, typically over many years, they can include early morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms, vision changes, and buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pains and muscle tremors. But often there are no symptoms, so waiting for a symptom to appear could be too late and even fatal.
What happens if you don’t treat hypertension?
If left undetected it can lead to often fatal health issues including heart attack or heart failure. It can burst or block arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain causing a stroke, and can also damage your eyesight and lead to kidney failure. Serious stuff!
What are the risk factors for hypertension?
1. Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. Until about age 64, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
2. Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
3. Being overweight or obese. The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the amount of blood flows through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
4. Not being physically active. Inactive people tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of being overweight.
5. Smoking. Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow and increase your risk of hypertension and heart disease. Even secondhand smoke can cause this!
6. Too much salt (sodium) in your diet. Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
7. Too little potassium in your diet. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. A proper balance of potassium is critical for good heart health. If you don't get enough potassium in your diet, or you lose too much potassium due to dehydration or other health conditions, sodium can build up in your blood. Foods rich in potassium include bananas, avocados, sweet potato, spinach, beetroot, and dried apricots.
8. Drinking too much alcohol. Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men may affect your blood pressure.
9. Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. Stress-related habits such as eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol can lead to further increases in blood pressure.
10. Certain chronic conditions. These may also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, including kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnoea.
s hypertension treatable?
The good news is yes! Once detected it can be controlled with lifestyle changes and/or medication to reduce the risk of chronic disease and early death. But the following changes are crucial and are not just suggestions, okay:
- Quit smoking
- Be active for at least 30 minutes a day
- Aim for 5 serves of veggies and 2 fruits per day
- Reduce salty foods, and decrease salt during and after cooking.
- Cut back on sugary sweets with no nutritional content but eat a little dark chocolate (at least 70%) which studies have shown can actually help reduce blood pressure. Yeah!
- Limit the number of alcoholic drinks per week.
- Maintain a healthy weight range
- Limiting the intake of foods high in saturated fats; think cakes, biscuits, pies, cheese.
- Eliminating/reducing trans fats in diet, think fried fast foods
- Manage stress with meditation, deep breathing, massage and getting enough sleep (around 8 hours a night).
Aussie Fast Facts: You might be surprised to learn:
- Tasmania (16.3%) has the country’s highest hypertension rate
- The Northern Territory (10.2%) has the lowest rate of high blood pressure
- Australian men (14.8%) have a higher hypertension rate than Australian women (10.8%)
Although hypertension can lead to serious health issues or even death, it’s remarkable how easily it can be detected and also prevented by committing to lifestyle changes long-term. All the more reason to pop into a Priceline Pharmacy today and roll up your sleeve for a quick and easy expert check, don’t you think?