Handling Hypertension

November 1, 2011

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Over 25% of St. Christopher Fund applicants have been officially diagnosed with hypertension (a.k.a. high blood pressure).  This closely resembles the 29% prevalence rate of hypertension in the United States that was last reported in 2004.  Blood pressure readings consist of 2 numbers: a measurement of systolic (the top number) and of diastolic (the bottom number) pressure.  These pressures are a measurement of the forces against artery walls as your heart pumps blood.  More specifically, systolic blood pressure is the pressure in vessels during a heart beat while diastolic is the pressure between heartbeats.

Those with a systolic pressure over 140 and/or a diastolic pressure over 90 are considered to have hypertension.  “Normal” blood pressure is a systolic under 120 and diastolic under 80.  When the top number is 120-139 most of the time or the bottom number is 80-89 most of the time, your doctor may consider you to have pre-hypertension.

In 90-95% of cases, hypertension is classified as primary or essential hypertension.  This means that no medical cause has been found.  While no direct cause has been found, there are several risk factors that increase one’s risk of developing hypertension.  These include: sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress, potassium deficiency, obesity (more than 85% of cases occur in those with a body mass index greater than 25), salt (sodium) sensitivity, alcohol intake, being African American, vitamin D deficiency and a family history of hypertension.  In the other 5-10% of cases, when hypertension is caused by other conditions (e.g., kidney disease, atherosclerosis, obesity/metabolic disorder, pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, the congenital defect known as coarctation of the aorta, Cushing’s syndrome, diabetes, hyper and hypothyroidism, and certain prescription and illegal drugs), it is classified as secondary hypertension.  Some medications (appetite suppressants, birth control pills, some cold medicines, corticosteroids, and migraine medicines) also lead to secondary hypertension.

It is important that your doctor check your blood pressure at your annual physical as persistent high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, aneurysm, kidney failure and death.  The problem is, most of the time there are no symptoms of hypertension until is has become very dangerous.  These symptoms include vision changes, nosebleed, irregular heartbeat, nausea and vomiting, headache, excessive tiredness, significant sweating, buzzing in the ears, or confusion.  Therefore, you should follow the recommendations set by your doctor to decrease your risk of complications from hypertension.  These recommendations will usually include taking one or more medications, exercising, quit smoking, losing weight, limiting your alcohol intake, reducing stress and following a healthier diet.

Remember that once you start medication for your high blood pressure, do not stop it on your own as strokes are the end result of abrupt discontinuation of blood pressure medication. Also, always take your medicine at the same time every day; bedtime may be the ideal time for your medication. However, check with your doctor on the best time for medication since some can make you sleepy.

St. Christopher Fund contact information:Screen shot 2011-10-12 at 2.24.06 PM
Website:  www.truckersfund.com
Email: truckersfund@gmail.com
Donation line: 877-332-GIVE (4483)
Fax #: 865-851-8396
P.O. Box 30763  Knoxville, TN 37924