Hypertension is dangerous. High blood pressure damages the inner lining of the arteries, limits the ability of the heart to pump blood and strains the organ in a way that can lead to heart failure. The condition increases the risk for stroke and vascular dementia, and hypertension is one of the most common causes of kidney failure. It impairs vision by damaging the blood vessels in the eyes.
But the disease usually has no symptoms, and of the 29 percent of Americans who have high blood pressure, fewer than half have it under control. The prevalence of hypertension was unchanged from 1999 to 2016 according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate of controlled hypertension — people taking medicine to lower it — increased from 1999 to 2010, but was unchanged through 2016.
“We monitor the trends and provide the statistical information,” said the lead author of the report, Cheryl D. Fryar, a statistician with the N.C.H.S. “The policy makers and health care people can make their decisions. This is a guide to the next step.”
Men and women over age 18 have similar rates of hypertension. Men have somewhat higher rates at younger ages, but after age 60, prevalence among women is 66.8 percent, compared with 58.5 percent among men
Within the adult population that had the disease, the prevalence of controlled hypertension was 48.3 percent, and it increased with age. But women were more apt than men to control their blood pressure. Among those aged 18 to 39, women had a 62.6 percent rate of controlled hypertension, compared with 15.5 percent among men. At 60 and older, rates did not differ by sex.
According to Dr. Peter Muennig, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University who was not involved in the report, younger men take more risks than women in general. Although men are diagnosed with hypertension at similar rates, they are less likely to take the necessary medication.
Rates of hypertension were higher among black men and women than among other races and ethnicities. While non-Hispanic blacks had a prevalence of 40.3 percent, whites had a 27.8 percent rate, the same as that among Hispanics. Prevalence was 25 percent among Asians.
Even though there are effective treatments, lowering blood pressure can be challenging. “It’s difficult for people to take medicine every day,” Dr. Muennig said. “And even if they do, it’s hard to control blood pressure — dosages vary, multiple medicines are often necessary, they have unpleasant side effects.” NY Times
So, what can we do to dramatically reduce this risk? First and foremost, if you are currently taking medication for high blood pressure…take it! Do not skip or stop taking it. Remember, except for rare exceptions, you can control your blood pressure. Here are three basics to help.
First, know your blood pressure. You can do this in a couple of ways. You can purchase a simple home blood pressure gauge from a big box store that will cost you under $100 and use it regularly. Or, Alta Patients can take advantage of our BP-Check walk in policy. You simply drop-in at our Naples walk-in clinic….no appointment necessary….ask to have your BP checked…and you will walk out five minutes later without costing you a cent.
Second, know some key “levers” that help you to lower high BP. These include diet, weight reduction, particularly saturated fats, reduced salt intake, regular exercise, and stress reduction.
Third, medication can play a role, particularly if your BP is extraordinarily high.
Remember, heart disease is a leading killer, and high blood pressure is a major cause of heart disease. Know your BP and work to get it into the normal range and keep it there.
Ask Alta…we will help!
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