May is National High Blood Pressure Education month and Kaiser Permanente cardiologists are reminding people to keep their blood pressure under control.
At a recent Kaiser Permanente health fair, a visitor decided to get a free blood pressure check. The numbers were surprisingly high, and fortunately, the person was quickly referred to Kaiser Permanente’s cardiac clinic for further care.
“Typically, there are no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure unless it’s very, very high,” said Seema Pursnani, MD, a Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara cardiologist. “ That’s why it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly.”
Knowing your numbers is important. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a silent killer because it often has no symptoms. Left untreated over time, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure and other serious complications.
What Do the Numbers Mean?
Blood pressure readings include two numbers. The first number is the systolic pressure (top number). This is the force of blood on the artery walls as your heart pumps. The second number is the diastolic pressure (bottom number). This is the force of blood on the artery walls between heartbeats.
If the top number stays high, or the bottom number stays high, or both, that indicates a person has high blood pressure.
Kaiser Permanente physicians are helping our patients and members get their blood pressure under control at a higher rate than the national average. Some 76% of our Kaiser Permanente Northern California members with hypertension have the condition under control, compared to 56% of patients with hypertension nationally.
Controlling High Blood Pressure
Although many people feel “ok” with high blood pressure, high blood pressure is second highest cause of preventable deaths (second only to tobacco smoking).
There are ways individuals can reduce their own blood pressure including reducing salt in the diet, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and doing moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day. These actions can reduce the amount of blood pressure medications needed.
In addition, getting more sleep can also help control hypertension, Pursnani said.
It’s never too late to manage your high blood pressure. You and your doctor can make a plan to lower yours with a healthy lifestyle and medicine.