High blood pressure: The Silent Killer

October 16, 2014 By Joshua Rock, D.O., cardiologist

High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is one of the most common medical conditions in this country. Most patients don't place enough stock in “mildly elevated” blood pressure. The common response in the office is, “My blood pressure is a little high, but I feel fine.”

Healthcare providers refer to hypertension as the “Silent Killer.” In most patients symptoms don't develop until many years down the road. At that point the horse is out of the barn.

Even mild blood pressure elevation can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system. The inner lining of all the arteries in the body, including the brain, heart and kidneys becomes damaged. This damage leads to plaque buildup and potential plaque rupture. This vicious process increases one's risk of stroke, heart attack and ultimately death. Elevated blood pressure also puts a stress on the heart and can damage the heart muscle.

The good news is that high blood pressure is easily treated in most cases. Medicines are usually inexpensive and very effective. Of course doing your part is also helpful for comprehensive treatment. This would include daily exercise, weight loss, minimizing alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and adhering to a very low salt diet. If the above does not get your blood pressure to goal then medications may be necessary.

Many patients disregard mild blood pressure elevations in the office. However, years of untreated mild hypertension can have dire consequences. “White coat hypertension” is a real phenomenon and results in blood pressure elevations in the office due to anxiety/stress from the physician encounter. Many people with “white coat effect” actually have undiagnosed hypertension. I tell my patients one of the best investments in medicine is an electronic blood pressure cuff. They are affordable and can be purchased at most pharmacies. A patient can take her blood pressure twice a day (morning and evening), and keep a log for a few days and bring the log to her next doctor's appointment. Unlike some investments a home blood pressure monitor is sure to pay dividends down the road!

Cardiologist Joshua Rock, D.O., is a member of Starling Physicians and The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) medical staff. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please call 1.855.HHC.HERE.