What is blood pressure and why should I be worried about it?

If we think of the heart as a pump whose primary job is to pump blood to your organs through blood vessels, blood pressure is simply the pressure in the blood vessels. Blood pressure is read as two numbers (for example 120/80) and a common question we are asked is “which is more important?”  Both numbers are important, and in a simple sense the first (top) number represents pressure during the pumping of the heart and the second number represents the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart relaxes (in between pumps).

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is sometimes called a “silent killer” because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms but can lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or stroke.  The problem is very common in the US – almost half of the adults have this condition.  About one in three are not even aware that they have high blood pressure.


When should I be screened for blood pressure?

At every Stopwatch Urgent Care, we check blood pressure on all patients for essentially all visits.  Many will ask why they need to have blood pressure checked if they just need something simple like a covid test, and the answer is to help identify some of that 33% of people that have high blood pressure and are not aware.  We recommend anyone over the age of 40 be checked at least once a year, and if you have elevated blood pressure or are actively being treated this should be done more frequently.  If you are between 18-39 years old it may be fine to be checked every couple of years.  Keep in mind checking blood pressure is simple to do and only takes a few moments.

What should I do if my blood pressure is elevated?

If your blood pressure is checked on more than one occasion and found to be elevated it is important to follow up with your health care provider for guidance.  Lifestyle modifications are likely going to be suggested if the elevation is not severe.  These would include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting enough physical activity.  In addition, we recommend stopping all tobacco products and limiting alcohol use.  If after a period of time these changes are not having the desired effect, medications can be started to lower blood pressure.  There are numerous different types of blood pressure medications, and finding the correct one for you is always the goal.