Blood Pressure Health
A lot of men in the United States experience high blood pressure. Blood pressure measurements are reviewed with these numbers as standards:
- Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.
- Elevated blood pressure is a systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 129 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mm Hg. Elevated blood pressure typically gets worse over time unless steps are taken to control it.
A measurement higher than 180/120 mm Hg is an emergency that requires urgent medical care. If you see this result when taking your blood pressure at home, wait five minutes and retest. If your reading is still this high, contact your provider immediately. If you have chest pain, vision problems, numbness or weakness, breathing difficulty, or any other signs and symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency medical number immediately.
Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are significant, but after age 50, the systolic reading is even more critical. Isolated systolic hypertension is a condition in which the diastolic pressure is normal, but the systolic pressure is high. This is a very common type of high blood pressure among people older than 65.
Because blood pressure normally varies during the day and may tend to be high at a provider visit (white coat hypertension), your provider will likely take several readings at three separate appointments before diagnosing you.
Taking Your Blood Pressure at Home
Home monitoring is an important way to detect high blood pressure, monitor treatments, or diagnose worsening high blood pressure. Monitors are readily available and inexpensive and can help your provider know your ongoing readings and respond appropriately. Ask your provider for a recommended model that is inexpensive but effective.
Tests that can determine a hypertension diagnosis
If your readings indicate that you have high blood pressure, your provider may recommend tests to confirm your diagnosis and check for underlying conditions that can cause hypertension. Such tests include:
- Ambulatory monitoring. This 24-hour monitoring device measures your blood pressure at regular intervals over 24 hours and provides a more accurate picture of blood pressure changes.
- Lab tests such as a urine test (urinalysis) or blood tests, including a cholesterol test, can provide important data points.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) measures your heart’s electrical activity.
- An echocardiogram can check for more signs of heart disease. An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of the heart.
Treatments for High Blood Pressure
Sometimes men who maintain a healthy lifestyle still have high blood pressure and medication is the only solution. But with a lot of men, lifestyle changes can help control and manage it. In these cases, your provider may recommend that you make lifestyle changes, including:
- A heart-healthy diet with less salt and more vegetables, fruits, and fish
- Regular physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight; losing weight if you’re overweight or obese
- Limiting your amount of alcohol
When lifestyle habits are not the issue, your provider will likely prescribe medications that depend on your blood pressure readings and overall health. Two or more blood pressure drugs often work better than one, and often trial and error will indicate the best ones.
Your provider will advise you on what your blood pressure treatment goal should be. This can vary with age and health conditions, particularly if you’re older than age 65.
Medications used to treat high blood pressure include:
- Diuretics, sometimes called water pills, help your kidneys eliminate sodium and water from the body. These are often the first medications used to treat high blood pressure, and there are different classes that your provider will go over with you. A common side effect of diuretics is increased urination which can reduce potassium levels.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help relax blood vessels by blocking the formation of a natural chemical that narrows blood vessels.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) relax blood vessels by blocking the action, not the formation, of a natural chemical that narrows blood vessels.
- Calcium channel blockers help relax the muscles of your blood vessels. Some slow your heart rate. You cannot eat grapefruit if you are on this drug.
Additional Medications Used to Treat High Blood Pressure
If you are having trouble reaching your goal with combinations of the above medications, your provider may prescribe:
- Alpha-blockers reduce nerve signals to blood vessels, lowering the effects of natural chemicals that narrow blood vessels.
- Alpha-beta blockers block nerve signals to blood vessels and slow heartbeat to reduce the amount of blood pumped through the vessels.
- Beta-blockers reduce the workload on your heart and widen your blood vessels, causing your heart to beat slower and with less force.
- Aldosterone antagonists are diuretics and block the effect of a natural chemical that can lead to salt and fluid buildup, contributing to high blood pressure. This drug may be used to treat resistant hypertension.
- Renin-inhibitors slow renin production, an enzyme produced by your kidneys that starts a chain of chemical steps that increases blood pressure.
- Vasodilators work directly on the muscles in the walls of your arteries, preventing the muscles from tightening and arteries from narrowing.
- Central-acting agents prevent your brain from telling your nervous system to increase your heart rate and narrow your blood vessels.
You should always take medications as prescribed, never skip a dose, and never abruptly stop taking your blood pressure medication. Never change your treatment without your provider’s guidance.
If you have concerns or questions about high blood pressure, call our clinic today for an evaluation.
Another common health concern among men is high cholesterol. Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of high cholesterol. Only a blood test can detect it. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. It is essential for building healthy cells. However, high levels can increase your risk of heart disease due to the development of fatty deposits in your blood vessels that can impede blood flow. Sometimes these deposits can suddenly break off and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol can be inherited, but it can also result from unhealthy habits, making it preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and sometimes medications can help reduce high cholesterol.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends cholesterol screenings every one to two years for men ages 45-65. Annual tests should be done over the age of 65.
Causes of High Cholesterol
Cholesterol travels through your blood attached to proteins. This pairing is called a lipoprotein. There are different types of cholesterol depending on what the lipoprotein carries:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol that builds up in your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” cholesterol that picks up excess cholesterol and carries it back to your liver for filtering.
Medical conditions that can cause unhealthy cholesterol levels include:
- Chronic kidney disease
Factors that can increase your risk of unhealthy cholesterol levels include:
- Poor diet: Excess trans fats, found in processed and packaged foods, can result in unhealthy cholesterol levels.
- Obesity: A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more puts you at risk for high cholesterol.
- Lack of exercise: Exercise helps boost your “good,” cholesterol, HDL.
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking may lower your level of “good” cholesterol.
- Alcohol: Too much alcohol can increase your total cholesterol level.
- Age: As you age, your liver becomes less able to remove LDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol levels can also be worsened by some types of medications you may be taking for other health problems, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Organ transplants
Prevention of High Cholesterol
These heart-healthy lifestyle habits can lower your cholesterol level:
- A low-salt diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Limited amount of animal fats
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- No smoking
- Exercising most days of the week for at least 30 minutes
- Drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Managing stress
Here at Catawba Primary Care, our providers are committed to helping you maintain a healthy cholesterol level through testing, treatment, and medical advice. Call us today.
Contact Catawba Healthcare Primary Care as a new or existing patient with any questions you may have about our wellness exams, commitment to men’s health, mental health, and preventative medicine. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Call us today at (828) 695-5900.