Common myths about hypertension

One of most common life threatening diseases in America today is hypertension. Also known as high blood pressure, it is often called ‘the silent killer’ as it shows no prior symptoms as such. It has been acknowledged as the single most significant risk factor for heart diseases, congestive heart failures, strokes, and kidney diseases. Research also states that hypertension is more prevalent among African Americans than Caucasians and Hispanics. More so, just like any other medical condition, hypertension is also beclouded with myths. Here are some of the myths that have been debunked to help you recognize hypertension and take necessary measures.

Hypertension occurs only in older adults

Hypertension is not a part of old age package. It may come as surprise to everyone that even young children and teenagers have been diagnosed with hypertension. Young children and teenagers as well as middle aged adults face hypertension; some as young as 12 years old. It occurs because of narrowed arteries and blood vessels that carry blood from the heart through the body. When the arteries and the vessels narrow, it creates difficulty for the blood to move through them to the heart. This makes the heart work harder and increases the pressure in the arteries and the vessels, thereby creating hypertension.

Headache is an indication of hypertension

It is a myth that originated in the early 1900s. People were under the assumption that headaches and migraine were symptoms associated with hypertension. However, research proves it to be quite opposite. According to it, people with hypertension have notably fewer headaches than people who don’t suffer from hypertension. As mentioned earlier, hypertension is a silent killer, i.e., one can’t feel the onset of hypertension. So it is a proven myth that headaches and migraine headaches occur because of hypertension. Though it’s a fact that when one experiences any pain, be it any, a human body’s heart rate and blood pressure increases but if someone really has hypertension, they’d get a pounding head each and every time they climbed the stairs or walked uphill.

Normal blood pressure is 120/80

For a long time as per medical standards, a reading of 120/80 was considered as normal blood pressure and any reading above that was considered as hypertension. But, now that concept has been rubbished. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have modified the concept. According to The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute a blood pressure reading is considered normal when it is below 120/80. If a person has a blood pressure reading between 120/80 and 139/89, this condition has been defined as pre-hypertension. Further if a person has a reading of 140-159/90-99, it has been defined as Stage 1 hypertension is defined as 140-159/90-99, and if the reading shows above this, it is considered Stage 2 hypertension.

Hypertension indicates that a person is tense or anxious

Although, it is true that hypertension means fluctuations in the blood pressure, it doesn’t mean that one becomes nervous, tense, jumpy, starts sweating, faces difficulty in sleeping or has a flushed face to develop hypertension. Research has proved that even people who are calm suffer from hypertension. The reason for this is stress, as it has been proved that stressful situations elevate blood pressure, and over the years, facing continuous stress gives way to hypertension. People with hypertension do not become a bundle of nerves, sweat profusely, have difficulty going to sleep and their face becomes flushed. Many people suffer from hypertension without them being aware of it for years. It is for this reason that hypertension is known as the ‘the silent killer’.

Obese people are more prone to hypertension

A person doesn’t have to be obese to face hypertension. The size of the body doesn’t have anything to do with hypertension although people who become obese at quite a young age can develop hypertension earlier than their slimmer counterparts. According to a latest research done in the U.S., a considerable number of people who are slim can carry the same risk as their obese counterparts. The culprit behind this is a person’s inactive lifestyle, stress, smoking, and unhealthy eating habits which put strain on the arteries and the blood vessels thus giving way to fluctuating and uncontrollable blood pressure readings.

Restrict or eliminate salt and sodium

For years salt has been unfairly blamed for causing hypertension. The culprit is neither salt nor sodium but rather an imbalanced intake of sodium, magnesium and potassium in the diets that throws off the balance of the blood chemistry, thus resulting in hypertension. Our daily foods are high in salt but low in magnesium and potassium. The solution is to is not to become paranoid about salt but to eat whole, natural foods but with a grain of salt! So when purchasing food items, one must read labels and watch out for the words soda’ and ‘sodium’ as well as the symbol ‘Na’ on labels, as these words and symbols indicates the level of sodium present in it. In addition to this, people are also under the assumption that using kosher or sea salt will prevent hypertension. That is not so as kosher salt and sea salt have the same sodium count as table salt.

It runs in my family, I will get it too

It is true that hypertension is a genetic condition and hereditary and runs in families and one is more likely to inherit and develop it, too, even if a close relative has it. Although, it is also true that there is not much one can do about it when one is diagnosed with it but one can face this condition and can avoid it if one makes necessary changes in their lifestyle. Lifestyle changes like a better diet with reduced salt intake, regular and moderate physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, avoiding tobacco and smoking, complying with medication prescriptions, and limiting the intake of alcohol can help keep hypertension at bay.

My doctor checks my blood pressure, so I don’t need to check it at home also

This perception can be quite harmful as the readings in hypertension have the tendency to fluctuate. For instance, one’s reading might show high when one is with their doctor but also might go down at home. So it is important that one adopts the habit of monitoring the blood pressure at home too. For this, it is advisable to have a blood pressure reader or monitor at home to keep a tab on your readings as it is vital for anyone who has been diagnosed with hypertension to take and note the readings every day at regular intervals or as the doctor recommends and inform the same to their doctor.

Blood pressure readings are normal, so there is no need for medication

Many people are under the misconception that if they have been maintaining lower readings, they can stop taking their hypertension medication. Avoiding taking medications for hypertension can be quite fatal. As mentioned earlier, hypertension is a ‘silent killer’ and taking it easy can be risky for one’s life. It can cause a considerable amount of damage to arteries, blood vessels, the heart and the kidneys. Even if the readings show normal blood pressure as in many cases, one has to continue with their medications. Following the doctor’s advice and recommendations carefully can help one successfully reach their treatment goals, enjoy the benefits of better health and keep hypertension at bay. So it is better if you let your doctor be your best judge of your condition and its treatment.

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