Every time you visit the doctor, one of the first steps of the appointment is getting a blood pressure reading. The numbers indicate the force of blood against the walls of your arteries during a heartbeat (systolic blood pressure) and between heartbeats (diastolic blood pressure). A healthy systolic reading is 120 mm Hg or lower, while a healthy diastolic reading is less than 80 mm Hg.
Cardiologist Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, interprets your blood pressure reading as part of your routine physical exam at his office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to understand what it means for your health and what you can do about it.
Risks associated with high blood pressure
Undetected and unmanaged high blood pressure places extra stress on your heart and can do significant damage to your entire cardiovascular system. Because all systems in your body are connected, other organs can sustain damage, too.
When hypertension goes unchecked for months, years, or decades, the consequences can be extensive. Heart attacks and stroke are two of the more well-known issues, both of which are life-threatening complications. The damage to your heart caused by hypertension can result in heart disease that further increases your risk of life-threatening complications.
When the arteries which supply your vital organs with blood are overstressed and damaged by elevated pressure over time, they can no longer fulfill their roles. This can lead to unexpected yet severe complications like:
- Vision loss
- Kidney disease or failure
- Sexual dysfunction
Even complications that aren’t deadly, such as vision loss or sexual dysfunction, are life-altering and may require extensive medical care. Lowering your blood pressure can help you to avoid such complications in the first place.
Hypertension often goes unnoticed
Although nearly half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure, few are aware that they have the condition. Unless you visit your physician on a semi-regular basis or test your own blood pressure at a local pharmacy kiosk, you most likely won’t realize that anything is amiss with your health.
Most people are symptomless when they have high blood pressure, and few realize they have it until a medical complication occurs. In some rare instances, severe cases of high blood pressure might cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention.
Complications from high blood pressure can be deadly, which is why it’s important to track your blood pressure and work with your physician to get higher numbers down to safer levels before symptoms and complications occur.
Mitigating your risk
Hypertension can occur due to other underlying disease (secondary hypertension) or on its own (primary hypertension). In any case, it’s important to either manage the underlying condition to lower your blood pressure or alter your lifestyle to alleviate high blood pressure and its risks.
Lifestyle changes like smoking cessation, physical activity, and a healthy diet can make a world of difference. Medications are available when lifestyle changes alone don’t cut it.
Dr. Graf works with you to develop a personalized care plan to manage your blood pressure while regularly monitoring your levels. If you’re worried about the dangers of high blood pressure, consider concierge medicine. A Graf CCPHP Membership offers patients increased access and additional health care support, like extended visit times, 24/7 connectivity with Dr. Graf, and access to a one-on-one health coach.
It’s never too late to check in on your health and take steps to control your blood pressure. Schedule your next visit by phone or online at the office of Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, today.