Clearing Up Common Misconceptions on Hypertension

Every year, at least a thousand people die in America due to high blood pressure, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When this condition — also known as hypertension — is left undiagnosed, unchecked and untreated, it can result in complications that lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.

Equipping yourself with the knowledge about high blood pressure might help you and your loved ones in your quest for good health. There are, however, some common misconceptions about hypertension that you need to be wary of as it can do more harm than good.

Misconception: High blood pressure cannot be prevented if it runs in the family.

As hypertension is hereditary, you might be inclined to believe that the condition can’t be prevented since it’s in the family. Experts, however, said that you increase your risk for high blood pressure if the disease is already in your genes while you keep an unhealthy lifestyle. Knowing that you’re predisposed to develop hypertension, then you can still do something to lower this risk:

  • Lose some weight if you’re obese.
  • Maintain a healthy weight after losing some pounds.
  • Live an active lifestyle, where you exercise at least 20 minutes to an hour every day.
  • Eat foods that are low in sodium.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Limit your emotional stress at work or in your social life. You can’t have too much negativity in your life.

Misconception: Are you feeling unwell? Do you have a headache? Your blood pressure could be elevated.

High blood pressure usually does not have any signs or symptoms, hence it’s called the “silent killer,” but whatever you’re feeling might actually cause your blood pressure to rise. If you are suffering from a bacterial or viral infection, or an injury from a sprain or a fracture, your body releases chemicals to fight the illness, which can temporarily elevate your blood pressure. It might be better to hold off on monitoring your BP for a few days until you feel better instead of worrying needlessly. To appease yourself, see a doctor immediately to address your health concern.

Meanwhile, headaches associated with high blood pressure might indicate a hypertensive crisis, where your reading could be way above 180/120 mmHg. If you have hypertension but have not been monitoring your blood pressure, or if you have not done any lifestyle changes or never followed through the doctor’s orders, then it’s possible that your severe headache could be a symptom of hypertension. Call 911 immediately for emergency medical treatment to prevent complications like organ damage.

On the other hand, the absence of symptoms like headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, and feeling nauseous are not accurate indicators that you don’t have to get yourself checked for high blood pressure. Even in your better days, a regular blood pressure check at home is still a good preventive measure.

Misconception: Your systolic blood pressure is normal, so you must be fine.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeter mercury (mmHg) expressed in two numbers -- the systolic and the diastolic.

  • Systolic, the top number, represents the force of blood that gushes through your arteries when the heart pumps.
  • Diastolic, the bottom number, represents the force of your blood when the heart is between rest from pumping.

Some people pay more attention to keeping the systolic number normal (below 120 mmHg according to the latest guidelines) to prevent cardiovascular risks. But a study has shown that for people below 50 years old, the diastolic number is still an important indicator of pre-hypertension risk.

People above 50, on the other hand, must still achieve to keep both blood pressure numbers normal, and not just the systolic. At this age, certain medical conditions might crop up. Hence, it’s best for a diabetic hypertensive 50-year-old, for instance, to have a blood pressure reading lower than the normal range to steer clear of any possible health problems that hypertension might worsen.

Misconception: Drinking wine is good for the heart, so it’s okay to indulge.

Wine, specifically red wine, contain compounds that supposedly help with heart disease but studies do not show strong evidence to suggest that it's healthy for the heart. An excess in consumption of alcohol, including red wine, can still be bad for someone with hypertension.

You might, however, still want to enjoy a glass of wine occasionally. If you can’t quit completely, then limit your alcohol intake to the standard below:

  • Beer - 1 12 ounce bottle
  • Wine - 1 4 ounce glass
  • 100 percent-proof alcohol - 1 ounce of shot only

Misconception: Your blood pressure has gone down so you can go ahead and stop your medication.

Since doctors prescribed your hypertensive medication, then it’s only doctors who can tell when you should stop taking this. In most cases, hypertension is a lifelong condition, which means that even if you enjoy a normal or low blood pressure for months, you still need to drink your medicine for maintenance.

If the medication is causing side effects, however, you can ask your doctor for a change in prescription. Never ever initiate ending your blood pressure medication without explicit instructions from your doctor.

busting common hypertension misconceptions []

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About the Author

Elliot Sanchez | Profile | Articles | Contact
Elliot is a health enthusiast who aims to spread the significance of living a healthy lifestyle.

She is a midwife, a nurse, and a trained EMT who has personally seen the reality and effects of diseases and accidents in a person's life.

Through this website, she hopes to influence her readers to be health conscious and to educate them on how to achieve health and fitness and prevent diseases.

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