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Ehsan Ghods, DO | Family Medicine
Ehsan Ghods, D.O.
Family Medicine
Center for Primary Care, Green Valley

"But I feel fine!'

About 75 million American adults have high blood pressure - that's about one in every three adults.

Having untreated high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.

Do you have the facts about blood pressure? NorthBay Healthcare physician Ehsan Ghods, M.D. says there are a lot of myths out there about blood pressure, most commonly he hears patients express surprise because they "feel fine."

"Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a big problem," Dr. Ghods says. "It can cause organ damage if it is not treated and controlled. It can lead to congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, stroke, coronary artery disease, etc. The bad thing about it is that it causes no symptoms. That's why it's called the silent killer."

The good news is there something you can do to prevent/fight high blood pressure, says Dr. Ghods.

"The best thing a patient can do is control their risk factors. They can quit smoking, lose weight, exercise, avoid sodium in the diet, make sure they are getting a restful night's sleep, and decrease stress," he explains. "And if all the lifestyle modifications are not enough, make sure you take your meds and follow up with your physicians regularly."

Learning about high blood pressure and dispelling the myths are also important. Here are 10 common myths and facts about hypertension:

I Feel Fine

Myth: Nervousness, sweating and trouble sleeping are some symptoms of high blood pressure and I don't have those issues.

Fact: High blood pressure doesn't have symptoms. In fact, nearly one-third of U.S. adults with high blood pressure don't even know they have it. A simple blood pressure measurement can find those affected, yet still undiagnosed.

How Low Can You Go?

Myth: Low blood pressure isn't anything to worry about.

Fact: Low blood pressure, or hypotension, can be a concern if it causes symptoms such as dizziness, fainting or even shock. Dizziness or fainting could lead to a serious fall. Shock, if not treated immediately, could end in death. However, it's true that low blood pressure is actually normal for some people.

It's Not a Youth Issue

Myth: It's not important to have your blood pressure checked until you reach age 40.

Fact: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for high blood pressure start at age 18. However, others might recommend starting even sooner. During adolescence, age, body size and level of sexual development have roles in determining blood pressure.

It's A Man's Disease

Myth: Only men have to worry about getting high blood pressure.

Fact: Women can have high blood pressure, too. Some women who might be at an increased risk for high blood pressure include those who are:

  • Overweight
  • Taking a birth control pill
  • Pregnant
  • Related to people with high blood pressure
  • African-American
  • Postmenopausal

It's Inevitable

Myth: High blood pressure runs in my family, so there is nothing I can do to prevent it.

Fact: High blood pressure can run in families. If your parents or close blood relatives have had high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop it, too. However, lifestyle choices have allowed many people with a family history of high blood pressure to avoid it themselves.

Salty Characters

Myth: I don't use table salt, so I'm in control of my sodium intake and my blood pressure.

Fact: In some people, sodium can increase blood pressure. But controlling sodium means more than just putting down the salt shaker. It also means checking labels, because up to 75 percent of the sodium we consume is hidden in processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes. When buying prepared and pre-packaged foods, read the labels. Watch for the words "soda" and "sodium" and the symbol "Na" on labels. These words show that sodium compounds are present.

Double Trouble

Myth: If you have high cholesterol, you must have high blood pressure, too.

Fact: Many of the same poor lifestyle choices, such as eating a high-fat diet or not exercising enough, tend to increase cholesterol levels and blood pressure. However, it's possible to have high cholesterol without having high blood pressure.

Putting on the Brakes

Myth: Once you start feeling better, it's OK to stop taking your medicine for high blood pressure.

Fact: If your doctor has prescribed medicine for your high blood pressure, follow his or her exact directions closely. It would be dangerous for you to decrease dosage or stop taking the medication without your doctor's approval.

"Over the Counter" Meds

Myth: All over-the-counter cold and flu medications are safe for people with high blood pressure.

Fact: The active ingredients in decongestants can increase blood pressure and could possibly interfere with blood pressure medications. Be sure to buy cold and flu medications that don't have decongestants. Always ask the pharmacist for help if you any medication concerns.

It's Just at the Doctor's Office

Myth: Your blood pressure readings at the doctor office continue to be high, but your blood pressure is probably fine at home. You just get nervous going to the doctor.

Fact: It's possible to have white-coat hypertension, which is when nervousness temporarily raises blood pressure during a doctor visit. But never ignore multiple readings that suggest high blood pressure. Try logging your blood pressure measurements at home over a period of time, and then share them at your next doctor visit.