The Truth About High Blood Pressure

Closeup of a MLKCH nurse putting a blood pressure monitor on a man's finger

About heart disease and blood pressure

High blood pressure is a health problem that affects Hispanics in a big way. Another name for high blood pressure is hypertension.

Heart disease is the Number 1 killer for all Americans, and stroke is Number 4. 

High blood pressure is dangerous to your health. If you have it, you are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Blood pressure is how hard the blood pushes on walls of arteries. Arteries carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. If a person has high blood pressure, it means that their arteries always get too much pressure. This can damage your arteries and can cause heart disease and stroke.

High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer.” Blood pressure is different from other health problems. You can have it and feel just fine. It can damage your heart (or other organs) long before you find out you have it.

That’s why blood pressure checks are so important. When you go to your doctor, they always check your blood pressure. They check two numbers to measure blood pressure. The top number (called “systolic”) is the force of blood in your arteries during a heartbeat. The bottom number (called “diastolic”) is the force of blood in your arteries between heartbeats. Each number is important.

What your blood pressure numbers mean

You have normal blood pressure if:

  • Your top number is below 120
  • AND Your bottom number is below 80

You are close to having high blood pressure (pre-hypertension) if:

  • Your top number is 120 to 139
  • OR Your bottom number is 80 to 89

You have high blood pressure stage 1 (hypertension stage 1) if:

  • Your top number is 140 to 159
  • OR Your bottom number is 90 to 99

You have high blood pressure stage 2 (hypertension stage 2) if:

  • Your top number is 160 or more
  • OR Your bottom number is 100 or more
Top, a young Latino family smiles in a South LA park. Bottom left, a woman on a bicycle. Bottom right, tomatoes and lettuce
Smiling MLKCH nurse takes a patient's temperature

Taking care of yourself

To keep your blood pressure normal, do these things:

  • Eat a healthy mix of vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats
  • Cut back on salt (sodium) in homemade and packaged foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Find ways to manage stress that work for you
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcohol
  • Take your medications as your doctor prescribed
  • Talk to your doctor about your health concerns or questions

The truth about high blood pressure

If you know the truth, you will see that what you do really makes a difference! If you take care of your blood pressure, you will live a happier, healthier life. Here are some common myths (untruths) about blood pressure:

Myth 1: “I feel great, so my high blood pressure is not a problem.”

Truth: Many people with high blood pressure do not have any symptoms. Nearly 1,000 people die each day in the U.S. from problems caused by high blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can damage your body and cause a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. Even if you feel great, keep your blood pressure normal by healthy living. Your body will thank you for it.

Myth 2: “High blood pressure runs in my family. I can’t avoid it.”

Truth: High blood pressure can run in families. It is true that you are more likely to get high blood pressure if your parents have it. But you can do a lot to prevent or lower your risk of blood pressure problems. Live a healthy life and talk to your doctor about your health. Doing this will help you prevent high blood pressure. You will also be a positive, healthy example for your family.

Myth 3: “My medications give me bad side effects, which are worse than having high blood pressure.”

Truth: The best way to control high blood pressure is healthy living and prescription medications, if the doctor recommends them. Some medications do cause bad side effects, but there are others that don’t. Talk to your doctor. Together you can find the medication that’s best for you.

High blood pressure is a common condition. Be in charge of your blood pressure!

Make choices that lead to a healthier you. Contact your doctor today for an appointment.

We do free blood pressure checks at events in South Los Angeles. If you see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital tent at a farmer’s market or mall, come by to ask for a free blood pressure check.

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