High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called “the silent killer” because it often has no obvious symptoms. But high blood pressure is a major cause of stroke and can cause damage to organs, such as your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, and a Harvard study shows that 7 out of 10 are not being appropriately treated.
Understanding high blood pressure
Your blood pressure is a measure of the pressure exerted by blood against the walls of the arteries. It is represented by what looks like a fraction, or two numbers separated by a slash. The first or “upper” number is the systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure of the blood against the artery walls when the heart is contracting. The second or “lower” number measures diastolic pressure, which is the pressure on the artery walls between contractions when the heart is essentially at rest.
Until 2017, a reading of 140/90 (read as “one forty over ninety”) was considered high blood pressure, but in 2017 the baseline was lowered to 130/80 for all adults, regardless of age.
Researchers examined ten years’ worth of national records of primary care visits, focusing on patients who had previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure. The study found that only 27.5% of patients with hypertension who had not previously been taking medication were prescribed drugs. Only 15% who were on medication but still showed elevated blood pressure were given additional prescriptions. This is called “treatment intensification.” More concerning, the rate of treatment intensification actually dropped over the course of the 10 years studied, from 25% of patients at the beginning of the period to only 15% in the last few years.
Doctors are scratching their heads to determine the reason for this under-treatment, but suggest the major reasons are concern about side effects, interaction with other medications for comorbidities, and an increasingly heavy workload for doctors who simply cannot give each patient sufficient time in an office visit.
Getting the care you need
This study underscores the importance of patients being advocates for their own health. Your doctor wants to give you the best care, so if you have any concerns or if you believe something needs to be addressed that was not discussed in the appointment, speak up. Make your blood pressure a priority to your doctor, as it should be to you. Consider the factors that contribute to high blood pressure and discuss with your doctor what can be done to bring your blood pressure down.
Age and family history are two risk factors that you don’t have much control over, but there are others that you can control: poor diet, high sodium intake, alcohol or tobacco use, obesity, physical inactivity, sleep disorders, and stress.
It’s critically important that you address the factors that are within your control while also getting the necessary treatment. So if you need to stop smoking, start exercising, and lose weight, you may need to take some pressure-reducing medications while you work to bring your blood pressure down naturally. In the meantime, as long as your pressure is elevated, you are in danger of a stroke.
Talk to your doctor about using Neuralert stroke detection wristbands as an important safeguard so that you can have an early-warning signal if you do suffer a stroke. Our state-of-the-art, AI-driven technology wristband looks like a smartwatch and can detect warning signs of a stroke within minutes. Early stroke treatment saves lives and can often prevent or limit long-term side effects. Ask your doctor about adding Neuralert stroke detection wristbands to your health program.