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Understanding Your Hypertension with Southcoast Health

Hypertension (or high blood pressure) means the pressure inside your blood vessels is too high. Your doctor measures two forces to determine your blood pressure:

  • Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure when your heart is contracting and pushing blood through your body. This is the top number of a blood pressure reading, and it should be less than 120.
  • Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure when your heart is relaxing and filling with blood. This is the bottom number of a blood pressure reading, and it should be less than 80.

Hypertension is an extremely common condition and often affects those with Type 2 diabetes. It affects about one in three Americans, meaning 70 to 80 million people. But only half of these people have their high blood pressure under control. For the millions with uncontrolled hypertension, they are at risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, aneurysm and organ damage.

To find the best ways to treat your hypertension in southeastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island, consult with a Southcoast Health doctor at a location near you.

What Causes High Blood Pressure

  • Primary or essential hypertension has no known cause and usually develops over time. This is the most common type of hypertension.
  • Secondary hypertension is due to another underlying medical condition, such as thyroid disease, kidney problems or certain medications. Treating the underlying cause will often reverse the high blood pressure.

Certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing primary hypertension include:

  • African American ethnicity
  • Age — about 65% of adults older than 60 have high blood pressure
  • Family history
  • Gender — men are more likely to develop high blood pressure in middle age, while women are more likely to develop it at an older age
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, poor diet, stress, not exercising and consuming alcohol, can also increase the risk.

Hypertension Symptoms

Hypertension is what the medical community may call a “silent” disease. This means there usually are no noticeable symptoms, even when blood pressure readings are dangerously high. That is why blood pressure screening is so important. The American Heart Association recommends regular blood pressure checks every two years starting at age 20.

Our Treatment Options for Hypertension in MA & RI

Treating the underlying cause of secondary hypertension usually brings blood pressure reading back to normal. For primary hypertension, the main treatments we recommend at Southcoast are lifestyle changes, including a low-­salt diet, regular exercise and not smoking. We may also prescribe the following medications:

  • ACE (angiotensin­converting enzyme) inhibitors
  • ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers)
  • Alpha blockers
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Diuretics
  • Vasodilators

Southcoast Health treats patients with hypertension in Fall River, North Dartmouth, Wareham, MA and in Portsmouth, RI, as well as surrounding areas.