8 myths about high blood pressure
There’s a lot of information about high blood pressure floating around out there that isn’t exactly accurate. We’ve debunked 8 common myths, separating fact from fiction, so that you can get the real story.
#1: I feel fine, so I don’t have high blood pressure
There’s a common misconception that if you don’t have any symptoms like nervousness, sweating, and trouble sleeping, you don’t have to worry about your blood pressure. Not true!
About 1 in 3 U.S. adults with high blood pressure aren’t even aware they have it, which is why hypertension (high blood pressure) is often called “the silent killer.” The only way to get visibility into the state of your blood pressure is by checking your numbers with a blood pressure monitor.
Having said that, there are a number of symptoms you may have if your blood pressure is extremely high (this is known as a hypertensive crisis or emergency), including:
- Bad headaches
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Confusion or fatigue
- Blood in your urine
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pounding in your neck, chest, or ears
Speak with your doctor urgently or go to the emergency room if you have any of the above symptoms.
#2: I’m young! There’s no way I have high blood pressure
Think again! Although there is an increase in hypertension with age because our arteries stiffen as we get older, nearly 1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 44 have high blood pressure. The young are not bulletproof, especially in the case of childhood/early adult obesity, so it’s a good idea to have your doctor check your blood pressure at every visit, even from a young age.
#3: If I don’t add a lot of salt to my food, I’m good to go
Hmmm…not quite. Staying away from the saltshaker is great, but you also need to be aware of the salt, otherwise known as sodium, which is already in the food you eat. Did you know that as much as 75% of the sodium we eat is hidden in processed foods? Get into the habit of checking food labels so you can be aware of what you’re consuming.
Secret sources of sodium include:
- Processed foods such as sausage, lunch meats, bacon, and ham
- Dried soup mixes and canned soups
- Snack foods like pretzels, peanuts, popcorn, and chips
- Food that is marinated or pickled in brine
#4: High blood pressure is more common in men
The truth is that age plays a role here. Before age 50, men are more likely to have hypertension than women, but post-menopause, the risk for women increases. There are other factors that can lead to hypertension for women, including:
- Taking birth control pills
- Being pregnant
- Being overweight
- Having relatives with high blood pressure
- Being African American
#5: If I’m on medication, I don’t need to worry about eating right and exercise
This is wishful thinking, and it seems to be quite popular. According to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol seem to be less careful about their lifestyle choices once they are on medication.
Medication is not a magic pill. It’s always important to maintain healthy habits, whether you are taking medication or not. You can get an overview of different types of blood pressure medications here.
#6: Red wine is good for your heart, so the more the better
Not so fast! Drinking too much can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels. And the empty calories in alcohol may cause you to put on weight, which you don’t want if you’re managing your blood pressure. If you’re overweight, even a weight loss of 5 pounds can lower your blood pressure, so you want to do everything you can to make sure the numbers on the scale are going down. Alcohol can also interfere with the effectiveness of some blood pressure medications and may even increase some side effects. You can still enjoy the occasional glass of wine or cocktail if you’re managing your blood pressure – just remember to drink in moderation.
#7: My doctor checks my blood pressure, so I don’t need to check at home
According to the American Heart Association, anyone with hypertension should be monitoring their blood pressure at home. Self-monitoring is a great way to keep an eye on your numbers, to see how well your medication is working, and to discover potential complications early. Home monitors like the Dario blood pressure monitor are designed to make monitoring at home easy and efficient. You may even find you like the visibility and control you get from checking by yourself.
#8: If one blood pressure number is in range, it’s OK if the second one isn’t
When you measure your blood pressure, you get two numbers (mmHg). Both numbers matter! Your systolic pressure, the top number, measures the force your beating heart exerts on the walls of your arteries. Your diastolic pressure, the bottom number, measures the force your resting heart exerts on the walls of your arteries. It’s important that you understand your blood pressure numbers so you’ll know what to do if they are out of range.
The facts about high blood pressure
Bottom line: Even if you’re living with hypertension, there is a lot you can do to take control of your heart health. It’s important to educate yourself, consult with your doctor, and talk to others with high blood pressure. That way you’ll find out what you need to know and get helpful tips from reliable sources. Being informed is the way to go!
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.