It’s usually one of the first things done at your doctors office. Your blood pressure can tell your primary care provider a lot about your health.
Dr. Karen Foote, with Lee’s Summit Family Medicine - a part of HCA Midwest Health, says If high blood pressure, also know as hypertension, is undetected and untreated, it can cause heart disease, including congestive heart failure and heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.
“It’s very important to have regular physical examinations to make sure your blood pressure is within the normal range,” Dr. Foote says. “This is especially important if your blood pressure has ever been high, if you have a family history of hypertension, or if you are gaining weight.”
Understanding blood pressure
“With each heartbeat, your heart pumps blood through your arteries to deliver blood to the many areas where your body needs it most,” says Dr. Foote. “When your nurse or doctor checks your blood pressure, he or she is obtaining a measurement of how forceful your blood pushes against your arteries when your heart pumps blood.”
When measuring blood pressure, there are two important numbers to keep in mind:
- The first number records the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats
- The second number refers to the pressure in your arteries when your heart is relaxed, or the time between each heartbeat
“A normal blood pressure remains lower than 120 over 80 (120/80), whereas a high blood pressure is 140/90 or higher,” Dr. Foote says.
You may be at risk for high blood pressure if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a family history of hypertension
- Regularly consume foods high in salt
- Exercise or incorporate less than 30 minutes of activity each day
- Consume more than the moderate amount of alcohol each day (two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women)
“One thing is for certain, when your home tests are readily above or below normal ranges, you should see your primary care provider,” Dr. Foote says. “Likewise, when you are experiencing symptoms of fatigue, nausea, dizziness, faintness, and drowsiness, that is another time you should see your doctor, as these are symptoms of blood pressure issues.”
Dr. Foote says changing your lifestyle can help control and manage high blood pressure. Your primary care provider may recommend that you make lifestyle changes including:
- Avoid fast food and highly processed foods
- Eating a heart-healthy diet with less salt
- Getting regular physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight
- Limiting alcohol
- Not smoking
- Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily
“Sometimes lifestyle changes aren't enough to treat high blood pressure. If they don't help, your provider may recommend medication to lower help your blood pressure,” Dr. Foote says.
Find a physician online at hcamidwest.com or call Nurses On-Call, our free health advice and physician referral line. Whether you are experiencing symptoms, worried about your child’s fever, caring for an aging parent, or looking for a primary care provider or a specialist, Nurses On-Call is just one phone call away. Call Nurses On-Call at (816) 751-3000.