Kerry Bellew, DO, is a Primary Care Physician with Adena Chillicothe Family Physicians. He’s had years of experience in Chillicothe and treating patients for hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Can Be Serious!
Hypertension typically occurs in adults over 30, although it’s becoming a more common occurrence for younger adults. According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of all adults in the United States suffer from high blood pressure. It is typically more prevalent in men than it is women until about the age of 65. “Hypertension is a chronic condition,” explains Dr. Bellew, “we often see it in people who are overweight or obese, smoke, have diabetes, high stress levels, have a family history of high blood pressure, or have a high intake of sodium, fat and/or cholesterol in their diet.” There are two types of hypertension: primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary, often called essential hypertension, is the most common. It is usually attributed to a number of possible factors including age, family history, race, weight, diet, alcohol consumption and lack of exercise. Secondary hypertension is usually the result of another pre-existing condition such as kidney disease, sleep apnea, thyroid or adrenal gland issues or as a medication side effect.
By the Numbers
Typically, any blood pressure measurement that is over 130/80 is considered high blood pressure. But what do the numbers mean? The top number is the systolic measurement, the maximum pressure exerting from the heart while it is beating. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure and represents the pressure in your arteries between beats. When these numbers are elevated beyond 130/80, it means your heart is working much harder than normal to pump blood through your arteries. Over time, the increased pressure can lead to other health issues such as heart disease, stroke, aneurisms, kidney failure and more. Dr. Bellew comments that according to the Mayo clinic, “Every extra pound of weight we carry, we add 5 miles worth of blood vessels. If your heart beats 100,000 times a day, it has to travel 500,000 miles a day for one pound of fat.” That means your heart has to work much harder to get blood pumping through your body and why being overweight often leads to high blood pressure.
Silent but Deadly
Dr. Bellew recommends that anyone 18 or older should get an annual blood pressure reading – more if they have increased risk factors like being overweight, smoking, lack of exercise, or a family history of hypertension. “The trouble is, hypertension symptoms are often silent,” says Dr. Bellew. Often if people are having symptoms such as blurry vision, headaches or general fatigue they could be in a hypertensive urgency state (high blood pressure not yet in danger of critically impacting organs), or a hypertensive emergency state (high blood pressure with the danger of damaging organs). “If any of these symptoms occur repeatedly, patients should contact their physician immediately,” says Dr. Bellew.
The good news is hypertension can be controlled on several levels. First, just simple lifestyle changes, like losing 10 pounds, can make a difference advises Dr. Bellew. Changing your diet by reducing sodium, fat and cholesterol can also help. “There are a ton of foods with high sodium content,” comments Dr. Bellew. “By reducing the times people eat out, or eat frozen or canned foods, that can make a difference because they often contain a lot of sodium.” If improved diet and exercise aren’t working, there are a number of effective medications that can help patients control their blood pressure. At Adena, our health care teams work with patients to make shared decisions on what might work best to control their hypertension. “There’s not always one set treatment path,” says Dr. Bellew, “but there are a number of trusted options to help patients gain control of their blood pressure.”
If you suffer from hypertension, have risk factors or haven’t had your blood pressure taken in the past year, contact Adena at 740-779-FIND (3463) or click here for guidance on what location and provider might work best for you.