Do You Have Hypertension? How a Primary Care Doctor Can Help

If you've been diagnosed with hypertension, you may be wondering what that means exactly and what caused it. You'll also likely want to know how to treat it. Read on for a basic overview of what hypertension is and how you can treat it.

What Is It?

Hypertension occurs when the exertion of blood against your vessels is far too high. Strangely enough, there aren't really any symptoms of hypertension. But if the issue is left unchecked, it can lead to serious conditions, like heart disease. If you already have an illness, like kidney disease, hypertension may be one of the side effects.

Because there are no symptoms and because hypertension is associated with such serious illnesses, it's imperative that you visit your primary care doctor every year to get your blood pressure checked out.

How Do Primary Care Doctors Check Your Blood Pressure?

Checking your blood pressure is one of the very first things your doctor does at an appointment. Officially a blood pressure monitor is called a sphygmomanometer, but it's just the inflatable cuff and pressure gauge that you've probably seen many times.

The two numbers your doctor reads off the pressure gauge check your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The systolic number is a measurement for how much pressure is in your vessels each time your heart beats. The diastolic number is a measurement for the pressure in your vessels when your heart rests between beats.

If you have prehypertension, than your systolic pressure may range between 120-139, and your diastolic number may be between 80-89. If these numbers get higher, than you are at risk for a more serious form of hypertension.

What Can You Do to Treat It?

Regular monitoring is important if you have hypertension. Your doctor may have you come in regularly until your numbers start to go down. One study even found that while healthcare costs increased for hypertension patients visiting primary care physicians, there was a lowered risk of death.

In-between doctor visits, your physician may prescribe you with some medications. For instance, you may be prescribed an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, which helps relieve pressure by relaxing blood vessels. If you are at a high risk for a heart attack, your doctor may prescribe a beta blocker, which protects the heart and manages cardiac arrhythmias.

Hypertension can often be relieved by lifestyle changes. For instance, you may be able to reduce hypertension by cutting back on alcohol consumption. You may also need to exercise or shed some extra pounds. Your doctor can help you develop a dieting plan. For instance, you may need to cut back on foods that are loaded with sodium.