Blood pressure myths

Manage numbers, stress on your heart.

Driving in rush-hour traffic, waiting in line at the store and 4 o’clock meetings on Fridays are just a few things that can trigger stress, get our hearts racing and cause high blood pressure. But unless you notice your pulse racing, you probably don’t think about high blood pressure — and that can be dangerous.

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of blood vessels. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause your heart to work too hard and raise the risk for serious health problems including heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Don’t be fooled by the following myths about high blood pressure.

Myth: Since high blood pressure runs in my family, I’m going to get it too.

Fact: If one of your parents or a close relative has high blood pressure, you’re at higher risk of getting it too. But that’s hardly a given. Healthy habits help many people with a family history of high blood pressure avoid it themselves. Here are key habits to start working on:

• If you smoke, stop lighting up.

• Trim down if you’re overweight.

• Eat a heart-healthy, low-salt diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

• Get regular exercise and do your best to manage stress.

Myth: If I had high blood pressure, I’d know it.

Fact: More than 78 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure and many don’t realize it. In fact, it’s sometimes called the silent killer because it usually doesn’t cause symptoms. You can have high blood pressure and feel fine, even though it may be damaging your arteries, heart and other organs. That’s why you need to get your blood pressure checked regularly.

Myth: Though I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s down now and I can stop taking my medicine.

Fact: High blood pressure can be a lifelong disease. And controlling it may mean taking medicine every day for the rest of your life. To protect your health, never stop taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to do so.

Three more numbers to know

Blood pressure is just one number to keep an eye on to reduce your risk of heart attack and heart disease. Here are three others you should know:

Cholesterol: Unhealthy levels can raise your risk of a heart attack.

Body Mass Index (BMI): BMI is an estimate of your body fat based on your weight and height.

Blood sugar: When your blood sugar is high, it can lead to diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart attack.

Talk to your doctor about your numbers and how to keep them in a healthy range. He or she can advise you on appropriate lifestyle changes or medicines.

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Kettering Health Network is a faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare system. The network has eight hospitals: Grandview, Kettering, Sycamore, Southview, Greene Memorial, Fort Hamilton, Kettering Behavioral Health and Soin.