The Reigning Silent Killer for Decades
High blood pressure/hypertension has been the reigning ‘silent’ killer for decades. It got that designation due to the fact that blood pressure can be high or even very high without any symptoms. Hypertension is like a ticking time bomb. Though silent it can lead to death and devastation. Just last year we lost the great film maker (Boyz N the Hood) John Singleton from a massive stroke. He was only 51 years old. He had struggled with high blood pressure for years. Do you know family or friends that died or were disabled by hypertension or its complications?
National High Blood Pressure Education Month- Be in the Know
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. It is an excellent time to review the disease and be reminded of how to control blood pressure. It is also a time to examine the impact of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension on health and community health.
Over the last decade there has been an increase in hypertension related deaths in all age groups. Dr. Lakshmi Nambia said, “This is a public health emergency that has not been fully recognized.”Tweet
High Blood Pressure, What the Numbers Tell Us
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the arteries that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. High blood pressure or hypertension is when the pressure is persistently higher than it should be.
According to the new classification released in 2017 by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA), hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure (top number) of > 130 or a diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of > 80. See the table below for more details.
Do you know your blood pressure? Is it in the green range?
The Statistics Tell Part of the Tale
The CDC notes that 108 million Americans or 45 % have hypertension. Only 25 % of people with hypertension are under control. In 2017 high blood pressure was the primary or contributing cause of death for more than 472,000 people. That accounts for almost 1300 deaths per day in the U.S. Also, there are hypertension disparities – 54% of African Americans versus 46% of whites and 39% of Hispanics have high blood pressure.
“For decades, we’ve understood full well the burden of hypertension – and the consequences of hypertension which are extraordinary in the African American community, more so than any other cohort in the world.”Clyde Yancy, Vice Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief of Cardiology, Northwestern University School of Medicine.
This silent killer has no boundaries. I remember encountering a successful businessman that thought his blood pressure could be put on a back burner. However, he had a massive stroke in his prime, was markedly debilitated, and died one year later. His family suffered as well. This unfortunately is not a unique story.
COVID-19 the Other Silent Killer
COVID is also being called a silent killer because it can sneak up on people. People with no symptoms can spread the virus to others who can subsequently become ill and die. That is why face covering/masks, social distancing, and good handwashing have been advised by health officials and CDC. Continue these practices until further notice!
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc, it is especially important this year to become informed and act on high blood pressure. Some medical professionals believe that people with hypertension may be more likely to get COVID-19 as well as more likely to die from the infection. Data from Italy showed that 76% of patients that died from COVID-19 had hypertension. A review of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York showed that 57% had hypertension.
More on COVID and High Blood Pressure
Since COVID-19 is a novel virus, scientist and medical experts are learning, yet there are still lots of unknowns. We are finding that some of the reported information about COVID-19 is subject to change as more cases across the world are analyzed. Currently, here are some thoughts related to the connections–high blood pressure, heart disease and COVID-19:
- Chronically elevated blood pressure can weaken the immune system making people more susceptible to infection.
- High blood pressure over time can damage the heart. COVID-19 can further damage the already weakened heart.
- COVID-19 virus can cause existing plaque in the coronary (heart) arteries to break away from artery walls and lead to a heart attack.
- Obesity can increase the risk for high blood pressure. Severe Obesity, BMI > 40, raises the risk of more severe COVID-19 infection.
Why is Controlling Blood Pressure Important?
High blood pressure/hypertension can damage arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart. Over time high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and erectile dysfunction. It can cause heart failure as well, from years of overworking the heart. It is currently not known whether controlled blood pressure reduces your risk for COVID-19, but certainly being in good health overall, will help you through this crisis. Controlling your blood pressure over the years reduces your chances of getting life altering diseases.
7 Tips to Control Blood Pressure
7 Healthy Tips
Are you already doing some of these things?
- Know your numbers and goals- normal blood pressure is < 120/80. Get your blood pressure checked in the office once a year. Make sure your doctor tells you what your goal is.
- Home blood pressure monitoring- follow your blood pressure at home. AHA offers ccctracker.com/aha. An I-phone, or pen and paper are fine as well. Just do it. According to the Million Hearts program strong scientific evidence shows that home blood pressure monitoring plus clinical support can lead to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
- Healthy diet- DASH, low sodium. The DASH eating plan (www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan) has been scientifically proven to help lower blood pressure. Also, less sodium can help. The elderly and African Americans tend to be more salt sensitive. So put your salt shaker away.
- Manage your weight– A healthy body weight is considered a BMI of < 25, unless you are very short, extremely tall, or muscular. CDC BMI calculator.
- Reduce Stress- try different ways like diaphragmatic breathing , burn candles, laugh, or pray. The Jackson Heart Study showed that participants (African American) who reported moderate or high exposure to stress were more likely to develop hypertension. Managing stress is very important during this COVID-19 crisis.
- Take your medications- as recommended if your doctor has prescribed them. If blood pressure is consistently higher than 140/90, doctors will often prescribe medication. If you think you are having side effects from medications, don’t just stop them, contact your doctor.
- Regular physical activity– shoot for some type of activity 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes. Some COVID-19 friendly activities from the World Health Organization:
If either of these silent killers (high blood pressure, COVID-19) come knocking at your door just say, “NOT TODAY!”Tweet
Control Your Blood Pressure This May and Beyond
Don’t just think about blood pressure during May. Disability and death from high blood pressure are preventable if you are attentive throughout the year. Although COVID-19 is dominating health discussions this year, hypertension should not take a back seat to COVID-19. COVID-19 gives us even more reason to be diligent about blood pressure and keeping it under control. Maintain good health so you can be ready if the coronavirus strikes.
There is a lot to share about hypertension. Do you have questions?