Being aware of your high blood pressure is important, but the stress that comes from thinking about it can make it worse, causing a negative feedback loop.
How do you know if your blood pressure is too high? While everyone’s starting point is different, a healthy systolic blood pressure is 119 or less and a healthy diastolic blood pressure is 79 or less. This means that if your blood pressure is “120 over 80,” it is “elevated.” The American Heart Association says that the following blood pressure levels are typical:
The normal range is less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic.
- High: 120 to 129 systolic, less than 80 diastolic
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: 130 to 139 mm Hg or 80 to 89 mm Hg
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: 140 to 179 mm Hg or 90 mm Hg or more in the diastolic range
- High blood pressure crisis: more than 180 systolic and/or more than 120 diastolic
If you have high blood pressure, what is the worst thing you could do? Cardiologists pretty much all agree on the answer.
Things you should never do if your blood pressure is high
Heart doctor and author of The Secrets of Immortality Dr. Ernst von Schwarz tells Parade that not taking high blood pressure seriously enough is the worst thing that someone with high blood pressure can do. “‘It doesn’t hurt, so why should I care?'” It’s called a “silent killer” because if we don’t treat it, it hurts all of our blood vessels, the heart, the brain, and the kidneys.
Not checking their blood pressure often is the worst thing that someone with high blood pressure can do, agrees Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, an interventional cardiologist and medical head of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. “Whether it is at a doctor’s office or with a home blood pressure cuff, it is essential that patients with a diagnosis of hypertension keep track of their blood pressure control.”
Dr. Chen says that keeping an eye on and writing down your blood pressure can help your doctors know when and if to change your medications. It can also give you a chance to take charge of your health by making changes to your lifestyle, such as losing weight, working out, and eating less processed and salty foods.
What are the most serious risks of having high blood pressure?
Many other health issues are linked to high blood pressure, so controlling it is important for your core health as well as your heart health.
“Uncontrolled high blood pressure not only increases the risk of major cardiovascular health conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke, but can also cause problems throughout the body such as kidney failure, vision loss, cognitive impairment, dementia and sexual dysfunction,” Dr. Chen points out.
Dr. von Schwarz says that not keeping your blood pressure in check can also lead to another very dangerous health problem.
“A major risk is the development of what we call hypertensive heart disease, which is basically heart failure as a result of uncontrolled hypertension,” he points out. Among other things, he warns of heart artery hardening, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and death, so get that monitor out and get to work!
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How can people with high blood pressure best keep their hearts healthy?
One good thing about high blood pressure is that you can usually treat it and have some control over it. To protect yourself and avoid serious health problems, our experts say:
- Regular exercise
- Lowering the amount of sodium in your diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Managing your stress
- Not drinking alcohol
- Giving up smoking (and all other forms of tobacco)
- Getting regular check-ups with your doctor
- Taking medications as directed
Dr. von Schwarz also says that you should test yourself at home.
“Check your blood pressure twice daily at home under resting conditions, sitting down for 10 minutes with a goal of less than 130/80 mmHg,” he says. “If the blood pressure is constantly higher, then re-consult with your doctor.”
- American Heart Association
- Cheng-Han Chen, MD, PhD, FACC, FSCAI
- Ernst von Schwarz, MD, PHD, FESC, FACC, FSCAI