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HBP Patient Guide

Check. Change. Control. How High Blood Pressure Affects the Body Left untreated, high blood pressure can have damaging effects on your health. The primary way it causes harm is by increasing the workload of the heart and arteries, which causes damage to the circulatory system over time. High blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge because it has to work harder to supply the blood the body needs. It also can contribute to a condition called atherosclerosis, in which the walls of the arteries become stiff and brittle as fatty deposits build up inside them. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, angina (chest pain related to heart disease), peripheral artery disease, and other serious conditions. In fact, people with high blood pressure over 140/90 are far more likely to have these dangerous conditions. According to the American Heart Association, 77% of Americans who’ve had a first stroke had high blood pressure at or over this level, while the same is true of 69% of Americans who’ve had a first heart attack. And 74% of Americans who have congestive heart failure have blood pressure levels above 140/90. How High Blood Pressure is Diagnosed While high blood pressure rarely has symptoms, the good news is that it can be diagnosed using a simple test with a blood pressure monitor. Your healthcare provider will perform this test. The most accurate type of monitor is called a bicep cuff monitor. You’ve probably had this test already, using this device. To get your blood pressure reading, the cuff is placed around your upper arm and inflated. This temporarily stops the blood flow in the arm. Your healthcare provider then slowly deflates the cuff, observing the reading on the monitor or listening through a stethoscope. As this happens, your healthcare provider takes note of your systolic and diastolic pressure to determine your blood pressure reading. Many things can affect blood pressure, so a diagnosis of high blood pressure is usually made after two or more successive readings that exceed healthy blood pressure ranges. Your healthcare provider will test you at least every two years if your blood pressure readings are within healthy ranges, but more often if they’re not. 8


HBP Patient Guide
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