High blood pressure is 'silent killer'

The Best Times Digital Edition

One of the most important keys to maintaining good health in the senior years is controlling blood pressure.

“High blood pressure is the most common disease in the United States. About a third of adults have it,” said internal medicine physician Keith Jantz, MD, Overland Park. “It is a major contributor to serious diseases including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and aneurysms.”

Dr. Jantz is chair of the Retired Physicians Organization of the Kansas City Medical Society. His group is presenting a series of four “Doc Talk” webinars this summer for the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE). He spoke at the first webinar in the series on June 16. The remaining webinars are July 21 on high blood pressure and diabetes, Aug. 18 on the effects of high blood pressure on your heart and Sept. 15 on blood pressure medications. Each webinar is held on a Wednesday from 2 to 2:45 p.m.; there is no charge to attend.

“We emphasize that high blood pressure is the ‘silent killer.’ It doesn’t have any symptoms. It damages the blood vessels and organs without you feeling anything,” Dr. Jantz noted.

Coupled with uncontrolled diabetes, the consequences of high blood pressure can include heart attack, kidney failure, organ damage, vision loss, neuropathy and more.

Dr. Jantz pointed out that those at most risk for high blood pressure include those with a family history of hypertension, men, tobacco users, African Americans and Hispanics. But everyone should be aware of their blood pressure, Dr. Jantz emphasized.

“At minimum, everyone should monitor their blood pressure several times a year, most likely in conjunction with doctor visits. Those being treated for high blood pressure should check it weekly, preferably at various times of the day,” he said.

Current guidelines call for adults to maintain pressures under 140 for the top number (systolic) and under 85 for the lower number (diastolic) when checked in a physician’s office. For those over age 70, the goal is to stay under 150 and 90. Good quality, inexpensive, easy-to-use blood pressure monitors are available for home use. Follow the directions on the monitor to use it correctly, he advises.

Dr. Jantz suggests several preventive strategies for lowering blood pressure. One is to reduce salt intake; much of the sodium we consume is added to frozen, canned or prepared foods. Other advice includes losing weight, increasing potassium and exercising regularly. He advises walking vigorously nonstop for at least 30 minutes every day.

He summarizes: “Most importantly, know what your blood pressure is. If it is elevated, see the doctor. If you are being treated, stay on the treatment and work with your doctor if you are having any issues with treatment.”

For more information on the “DocTalk” free webinars, visit kcmedicine.org/doctalk. The webinars are made possible through a partnership between the JCDHE and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in conjunction with the 1817 grant project.