You can have high blood pressure without even knowing. And while you may enjoy being symptom-free, behind the scenes, high blood pressure — also called hypertension — is wreaking havoc in your body.
At Four Peaks Primary Care & Internal Medicine in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. Fayz Yar Khan and our team take hypertension very seriously, and we urge all our patients to come in for regular checkups to monitor their numbers.
Some people are more susceptible to high blood pressure than others. Here, Dr. Yar Khan explains the controllable and uncontrollable factors that put you at risk for hypertension.
Controllable risk factors for high blood pressure
Understanding the lifestyle choices that can lead to high blood pressure is the first step in managing your vascular health. Because there are typically no warning signs to tip you off, it’s important to know if you have any habits that could increase your blood pressure. Here are the most common:
Being overweight or obese
Excess body fat causes your whole body to work harder every time it moves, especially your heart. It labors with every beat as it pumps oxygenated blood to your outer limbs. Over time, the added stress takes a toll on your blood vessels and heart muscle.
Eating an unhealthy diet contributes to obesity, but it also plays a role in your blood pressure. In particular, high levels of sodium that are so common in fast food, restaurant meals, and processed ingredients can increase your blood pressure.
Start reading labels on the foods you buy and cut back on the salt you add when you’re cooking. It may take a while to retrain your taste buds to enjoy less salty foods, but it’s essential for your blood pressure and heart health.
Getting regular exercise is important for your entire body — it strengthens your muscles, keeps you trim, and promotes proper functioning of all your organs. It also helps keep your blood pressure down. When you move around and get your heart rate up, you strengthen your blood vessels and enable them to handle an occasional spike in blood pressure.
You know that smoking is bad for your lungs, but it can also damage your blood vessels and heart tissue. The chemicals in tobacco, particularly nicotine, are known to raise blood pressure. And the carbon monoxide created when you smoke decreases the amount of oxygen in your blood.
While it’s okay to have an occasional cocktail, too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. To stay within the safe zone, women should limit alcoholic beverages to one a day, and men shouldn’t exceed two a day.
If you live under constant high stress, expect your blood pressure to rise. And if you tend to reach for unhealthy “comfort” food at stressful times, you double your risk.
For folks who drink caffeine regularly, the chemical doesn’t typically affect blood pressure. But if you’re not accustomed to it, one cup of coffee can cause a spike. To find out if caffeine affects your blood pressure, check your numbers about half an hour after drinking caffeine. If you see a bump of 5-10 points, you may be sensitive to caffeine.
Uncontrollable risk factors for high blood pressure
Some factors that increase your blood pressure are out of your control. If any of these apply to you, it’s important to see us regularly and monitor your blood pressure often.
The older you get, the higher your risk for hypertension. In fact, about 90% of adults in the United States will eventually experience some degree of hypertension.
Your race may make you more susceptible to high blood pressure. For example, African Americans tend to suffer from hypertension earlier and more often than Caucasians, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.
If high blood pressure runs in your family, you have a higher risk of getting it too. This risk increases if you couple it with an unhealthy lifestyle.
How to decrease your risk for high blood pressure
The first step in mitigating your risk for high blood pressure is to manage all your controllable risk factors. If you’re overweight, work toward losing some excess fat; if you sit around all day, commit to a regular exercise routine. Cut back on sodium and alcohol, reduce stressors, and quit smoking.
If these efforts don’t lower your blood pressure to a safe range, Dr. Yar Khan can prescribe medication that will decrease your blood pressure while you incorporate healthier habits into your everyday life.
Do any of these risk factors apply to you? If so, schedule an appointment to have your blood pressure checked and talk to Dr. Yar Khan about how to avoid hypertension-related conditions, such as stroke, heart failure, sexual dysfunction, heart attack, and vision loss.
Call us today at 603-357-8349 or book your visit online.