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Five common high blood pressure myths

May 30, 2023 

May is National Blood Pressure Education Month, and it is important to educate yourself about high blood pressure so that you can make smart choices. 

Each time your heart beats, it is sending blood into your arteries. Blood pressure is the force of your blood as it pushes against the walls of your arteries.

“High blood pressure, also known as hypertensive crisis or acute hypertension, is a serious medical condition that requires urgent treatment,” said Megan Siegrist, APRN, a nurse practitioner with Prairie Heart Institute at HSHS St. John’s Hospital. “Chronic hypertension causes the heart to work harder. If left untreated, hypertensive crisis or chronic heart failure may occur, which is a medical emergency that can lead to stroke, heart attack, or even death.” 

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. A normal blood pressure reading for adults is a systolic pressure of less than 120 mm Hg (standard unit of measurement for pressure) and a diastolic pressure of less than 80 mm Hg, or “120/80”. Your blood pressure will change throughout the day but having high blood pressure means your blood pressure is consistently above normal. 

“People with hypertension can reduce their risk of complications by making positive lifestyle changes, such as changing their eating or exercise habits,” said Siegrist. “However, sometimes these changes are not enough to control or lower blood pressure. People with hypertension should consult with their primary care physician to develop a treatment plan that suits them best.” 
According to the American Heart Association, these are five common myths of high blood pressure:

1.    Myth: High blood pressure runs in my family, so there is nothing I can do to prevent it. 
  • Many people who have parents or close, blood-related relatives with high blood pressure are able to avoid developing high blood pressure by making heart-healthy lifestyle changes. 
2.    Myth: I don’t use table salt, so I’m in control of my sodium intake and blood pressure.
  • In some people, sodium can increase blood pressure. Simply avoiding table salt does not mean you are in control of your sodium intake. Make sure to read the nutrition label on prepared and prepackaged food, and look for the words “soda”, “sodium” or the symbol “Na” to gain an understanding of how much sodium compound is present in your diet. 
3.    Myth: I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, but I have been maintaining lower readings, so I can stop taking my blood pressure medication. 
  • High blood pressure can be a lifelong disease. Do not stop taking your blood pressure medication before consulting with your primary care physician. 
4.    Myth: People with high blood pressure experience nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping and flush faces. I feel fine, so I don’t have to worry about my blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it usually has no warning signs and many people have it for years without knowing. Don’t make the mistake of assuming any specific symptoms will let you know there’s a problem. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to get regularly checked by your primary health care physician. 
5.    Myth: I read that wine is good for the heart, which means I can drink as much as I want.
  • Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically. If you do drink alcohol, including red wine, do so in moderation. Stick to the recommended two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women. Generally, one drink equals a 12-ounce beer, a four-ounce glass of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor or one ounce of hard liquor.
For more information about high blood pressure, visit heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure.

If you are concerned about your heart health, Prairie Heart Institute has physicians and providers in Effingham to partner with you. To learn more about the doctors of Prairie, call 888-4PRAIRIE or visit Prairieheart.org.
Five common high blood pressure myths