Diagnosing, Treating High Blood Pressure Vital

Many People Unaware Disease is Putting Extra Pressure on Their Heart

High blood pressure is often called an invisible health problem. There are often no symptoms, but without treatment, high blood pressure can cause serious health problems, including heart attacks and strokes.

An estimated 1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, said Paul Sletten, MD, a family medicine physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca. About half of patients with high blood pressure do not have it under control.

“Uncontrolled high blood pressure puts a lot of stress on a patient’s heart,” Dr. Sletten said. “Many people with high blood pressure show no symptoms or realize that it is high, which is why checking it is so important.”

A blood pressure reading measures the amount of blood pumped by the heart and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. The more blood that the heart pumps and the narrower of the patient’s arteries, the higher the blood pressure. High blood pressure is diagnosed when a patient’s systolic pressure (or the top number) is higher than 140 mm HG or the diastolic pressure (the lower number) ranges from 90 to 99 mm Hg. Someone with a systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg is considered to have prehypertension.

A number of factors cause high blood pressure including obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, lack of exercise, medication, age, a diet high in sodium and stress. Patients can take many steps to treat high blood pressure, Dr. Sletten said.

“Medication is one option to effectively control high blood pressure, but making lifestyle changes can also bring the numbers down,” he said. “Some changes to consider include quitting smoking, limiting caffeine and getting some regular exercise, even chair-based exercises are helpful. I also advise people to lower their salt intake and cut out processed foods.”

If a patient has prehypertension, Dr. Sletten advises her to incorporate lifestyle changes to bring her blood pressure down. “If you are able to bring your blood pressure down to a normal range, you can avoid so many health problems,” he said.

Dr. Sletten said high blood pressure does not affect just adults. Children can also have high blood pressure caused by obesity, a lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet, he said.

“Every time you come to the doctor’s office, we check your blood pressure,” Dr. Sletten said. “It gives us a quick check on your overall cardiovascular health. If a patient has high blood pressure, we want to see him on a regular basis to monitor how things are going.”

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 32 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.