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High Blood Pressure: Why It’s Important

doctor checking patient's blood pressure

Your blood pressure is an important number for you to know. Knowing your blood pressure is an easy first step in reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. By taking your blood pressure on a regular basis, you not only reduce your risk of chronic medical conditions, but you and your physician can manage your high blood pressure, commonly known as “the silent killer”.

Your blood pressure is not only an important measure of your cardiovascular risk, but it also has countless effects on your overall long-term health. An elevated blood pressure affects virtually every organ in your body. It can lead to premature heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease and blindness, just to name a few. 

What is Normal Blood Pressure?

In general, your blood pressure goals are related to your age, your medical conditions and any symptoms associated with an elevated or depressed reading. For these reasons, it is important for you and your physician to work together to obtain an optimal blood pressure based on your specific medical conditions. For example, a person with chronic kidney disease will potentially have a different blood pressure goal than someone with no known chronic medical conditions. As a general rule, a blood pressure greater than 140/90 is commonly agreed upon as hypertensive. Review the blood pressure chart below from The American Heart Association for general blood pressure guidelines. 

blood pressure chart from the American Heart Association
Blood Pressure Chart by The American Heart Association

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

The specific causes of high blood pressure are too numerous for this discussion but a few common causes that are easily identified are advancing age, obesity, diet, sleep apnea and kidney disease. Moreover, one of the most common causes of elevated blood pressure in individuals who are currently taking medications to control their blood pressure is non-compliance with their medications. If you are on medications to control your blood pressure, one of the best ways to lower your risk is to take your medications as prescribed. 

High Blood Pressure Symptoms

woman showing signs of high blood pressure

Most individuals are asymptomatic even though they suffer from high blood pressure. Patients can go for years and never known they have an elevated pressure. This is why it is so important to know your numbers and record your blood pressure on a regular basis. Taking your blood pressure readings to your family physician will help both of you decide on an appropriate treatment plan. Some of the common symptoms of an elevated blood pressure are headaches, fatigue and potential visual changes. Again, it is important to remember that most individuals are asymptomatic for a prolonged period of time until they are diagnosed so consistent evaluation is warranted despite a lack of symptoms.

How to Lower Your High Blood Pressure

Besides medications, there are many things you can do to help control your blood pressure. A healthy diet, low in salt and cholesterol, high in fruits and vegetables is a very helpful start. In addition, weight loss for those individuals who are overweight is also helpful. If you suffer from sleep apnea, using your CPAP machine can also help control your blood pressure. Finally, compliance with your prescribed medications, coupled with the measures listed above have been proven highly effective in controlling an individual’s blood pressure.

Monitoring Your High Blood Pressure

One way to monitor your blood pressure is by purchasing a good, quality blood pressure cuff at your local pharmacy or medical supply outlet. Your physician or pharmacist can assist you with choosing the right cuff that is both accurate and the correct size. In general, patients with known high blood pressure should check their blood pressure on a daily basis, two hours after their dose of medications. If you notice a rise in your pressure, do not panic; it is common for your blood pressure to vary throughout the day. You will rarely be treated for a single abnormal pressure, rather physicians are more interested in the overall trend over days or even weeks. 

A man checking his own blood pressure.

For those without known high blood pressure, you should take your blood pressure on a weekly or monthly basis. This will allow you to report to your physician what your home pressures are at your next office visit. Finally, each time you take your pressure, keep a record of it. Bring your blood pressure machine or your written pressures to your provider at your next visit. This will allow him or her to not only review the pressures, but to also validate the accuracy of your blood pressure monitor.

When Should You See a Doctor?

In general, if your blood pressure is greater than 140/90 consistently, seeking medical attention is generally an agreed upon standard. Once again, optimal blood pressure is related to many factors as noted above, but this general rule is a reasonable benchmark to start with. There are also many resources for additional information; one of the most relevant and trusted is The American Heart Association

We hope this short session has been helpful. Please feel free to suggest more topics for KHC University so we may help you live a healthier life. Remember, know your numbers!

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Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is an invasive heart procedure where an ultrasound probe is inserted into your esophagus (food pipe). A transesophageal echocardiogram allows your cardiologist to acquire detailed pictures pertaining to the structure, function and any valvular heart disease that many be present. This procedure demonstrates your cardiac function in much greater detail than a standard transthoracic echocardiogram.

Prior to your procedure, you should not have any food or drink for 8-12 hours. In most cases, you will be able to take your home medications as scheduled. Your cardiologist / healthcare provider will advise you if there are any requirements to alter your medication schedule. Prior to your transesophageal echocardiogram, the technologist will insert an IV in your arm as a safety precaution to begin the test. This will allow sedation to be given to make you more comfortable during your procedure. During your procedure, you will be required to lie flat for approximately 30 minutes while the test is being completed. After your transesophageal echocardiogram, you will need to refrain from driving for approximately 12 hours and will need someone to accompany you home after the procedure. You can return to your normal activities the morning after your procedure.