Lavern Davidhizar, DO
As an Alaskan, you’re at risk of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. This is a serious disease that over time can increase your risk of developing certain conditions, including stroke and heart attack. Knowing the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure and getting your blood pressure checked is the first step in reducing your risk of heart disease.
As many as 1 in every 3 adults in the United States (or 29 percent) have hypertension. Since 1991, the incidence of high blood pressure among Alaskans has been increasing. In a span of two decades, there has been a 6 percent increase (from 19 percent to 26 percent) in the number of adult Alaskans who were told they had high blood pressure by their healthcare providers. That’s why it is essential that you find out if you have high blood pressure and be treated for it if you have it.
What Constitutes High Blood Pressure?
To understand what is considered high blood pressure, it’s important for you to learn about how high blood pressure is measured. Your blood pressure measurement consists of your systolic blood pressure (top number reading) and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number reading).
When you have a top number (systolic blood pressure) of 140 mm Hg or above for a long period and a bottom number (diastolic blood pressure) of 90 mm Hg or above for a long period (written as 140/90 mm Hg), it signifies that you have high blood pressure.
Normal blood pressure is when your blood pressure is at or below 120/80 for most of the time. If you blood pressure is above 120/80 mm Hg, but below 140/90 mm Hg, you have pre-hypertension.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
Although there are some high blood pressure symptoms, the American Heart Association says that it is known as the 'silent killer" since there are hardly any symptoms. In fact, many Alaskans who have the disease don't have any symptoms and aren’t aware they even have high blood pressure until they visit their Kenai Peninsula doctor.
You are risking your life if you think that symptoms of blood pressure will indicate you have the disease. This is why it’s so important to get regular check-ups with your primary physician in Soldotna and have your blood pressure checked.
While in many cases there are no symptoms of high blood pressure, some people who have the disease exhibit:
It is very important to note that not everyone with high blood pressure will exhibit these symptoms and these signs could also signify another condition not specific to high blood pressure. If you do experience these symptoms, generally they appear when you are at a life-threatening or severe stage of the disease. Typically, the complications that hypertension causes reveal signs and symptoms of
high blood pressure, and not the blood pressure itself.
Some of the these complications include:
Heart Attack. This happens when your heart isn't getting enough oxygen because
there is a blockage of oxygen-rich blood to a part of your heart muscle. Common
heart attack symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain and discomfort in
your upper body.
Heart Failure. When your body is not getting enough blood because your heart
isn't pumping enough of it, this can cause heart failure. Common symptoms of this
condition include trouble breathing or shortness of breath. In addition, your ankles,
legs, feet, neck veins and abdomen will swell and you’ll likely feel tired and
Aneurysms. When the walls of one of your arteries form an abnormal bulge, this
causes an aneurysm. It can take years for an aneurysm to grow and there might
not be any signs until it ruptures, blocks your blood flow or presses against a body
part. The area of your aneurysm is what will determine the symptoms you
Chronic Kidney Disease. You can suffer from kidney failure when your blood
vessels begin narrowing in your kidneys.
Peripheral Artery Disease. This is where you get plaque build-up in the arteries of
your leg and it affects the flow of blood in your legs. Common symptoms of this
disease (if you get any) include cramping, pain, aching, numbness and heaviness in
your feet, buttocks and legs after you climb stairs or walk.
Stroke. When your oxygen-rich blood flow is blocked from a portion of your brain,
it can cause you to have a stroke. Common symptoms include numbness or
paralysis of your legs, arms or face, trouble seeing, understanding speech or
speaking and a sudden onset of weakness.
Cognitive Changes. Over time, you can experience some cognitive changes
because of high blood pressure. Symptoms of these changes include difficulty
finding words, memory loss and loss of focus during conversations.
Eye Damage. This is where a blood vessel bursts or bleeds in your eyes. Blindness
or vision changes are common symptoms of this condition.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
In some cases, gestational hypertension can lead to preeclampsia, which is a
complication you can develop during pregnancy where you have high blood
pressure and signs of other organ system damage. This typically occurs after you
have passed your twentieth week of pregnancy. If you don't get this treated by
your gynecologist on the Kenai Peninsula, it can result in severe or fatal
complications for both you and your baby.
Some of the common symptoms of high blood pressure associated with preeclampsia include:
You can experience swelling in your hands and face and sudden weight gain with preeclampsia, however, these signs can also happen in pregnancies that are considered normal.
High Blood Pressure Treatments
The overall objective of treatment is for you to keep a normal range of blood pressure, or under 140/90 mm HG. Treatment provided by your Soldotna primary care physician usually begins with a discussion about potential changes in your lifestyle, which includes more physical activity, losing weight, limiting alcohol, reducing sodium intake, and changing your diet. Your physician may also put you on certain medications to treat this condition.
Common blood pressure medications may include:
Heart disease is a threat to Alaska residents and Alaskans can be more vulnerable
to this disease than any other group. Therefore, it's important that you monitor
your blood pressure regularly with the help of your Soldotna doctor. The good
news is that Family Medical Clinic offers Alaska residents the BodySmart wellness
program — and we are the only one in Alaska that does.
Contact our Family Medical Clinic office in Soldotna today to get your blood
pressure checked. Our office is conveniently located in Soldotna with business
hours from 8:00am-6:00pm Monday through Friday, and 11:00am-3:00pm on
Saturday. Call us at (907) 262-7566 to schedule your appointment.