Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts on the walls of blood vessels or arteries.
When it is very high, it is considered hypertension, a condition that currently suffers from around 1,130 million people worldwide. Despite its high incidence, it is a health problem that is often misunderstood, which makes its detection, control and treatment difficult. Here we review the main myths around it.
Myth 1: Hypertension is not serious
This is not true, if not treated, high blood pressure can increase the risk of different health problems, such as strokes, heart attacks, erectile dysfunction, kidney disease, heart failure, or vision loss.
This is because over time the increase in blood pressure can cause the blood vessels to become less elastic, reducing the amount of blood and oxygen reaching the heart. It can also affect blood vessels in the brain, increasing the risk of them becoming blocked or ruptured.
Myth 2: Hypertension can be detected by its symptoms
Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” because there are no signs or symptoms to indicate its presence. The only way to detect it is by monitoring blood pressure levels, which can be measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) by taking into account the activity of the heart: systolic (pumping) and diastolic (resting) pressure.
- Which is more important, high blood pressure or low blood pressure?
Normal levels are considered when systolic pressure is below 130 mmHg and diastolic pressure below 85 mmHg. If the blood pressure monitor indicates that the above measurements are consistently exceeded, hypertension may have developed.
Myth 3: Hypertension is hereditary
There is scientific evidence that hypertension has a genetic component, however, this does not mean that it is an inevitable condition for those who may be genetically susceptible to it.
The main risk factors for hypertension are normally associated with lifestyle, therefore, it is recommended to adopt healthy habits to prevent it, such as:
- Maintain a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, cereals, and legumes, and low in salty, fried, fatty, or ultra-processed products.
- Control stress levels.
- sleep properly
- Exercise regularly.
Myth 4: Hypertension only affects older adults
This is another widely held belief, since hypertension is more common in older adults. However, there are also cases among adults and even young people.
Although it is difficult to pinpoint figures when it comes to a condition that often goes unnoticed, it is estimated that hypertension affects 8% of people between 18 and 39 years of age, 35% of people between 40 and 59 years of age, and almost 65% of older than 60 years.
Myth 5: Only men develop hypertension
Similar to what happens with the previous myth, it is common to believe that hypertension is a condition exclusively for men, but the truth is that it also affects women.
Although the male population has a higher risk of developing it up to 45 years of age, from that age and up to 65 the risk seems to be balanced. Already from the age of 65, women tend to have a higher risk of high blood pressure.
Myth 6: There is no risk of hypertension if I do not use table salt
Avoiding table salt is a key step in reducing your risk of high blood pressure, but it’s not enough. This is because salt can also be found “hidden” in many foods (mainly ultra-processed) such as sausages, hamburgers, baked goods, pizzas, cheeses, sandwiches, snacks (chips, popcorn or pretzels) or canned soups.
To limit or avoid salt intake, it is recommended to pay special attention to food labels, and when seasoning, replace it with other spices or herbs.
Myth 7: Hypertension can be cured
This is false, there is no cure for hypertension. To manage this condition, control blood pressure levels, and thus reduce its impact on health, experts recommend maintaining a healthy diet, reducing alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, not smoking, controlling weight and stress, sleeping correctly and take the medication recommended by doctors.
Myth 8: If blood pressure levels drop, medication is no longer necessary
In some cases, doctors may consider it necessary to use drugs to control blood pressure levels. If these remain low thanks to the medication, it does not mean that you can stop taking it, on the contrary, it is a good indication that it should continue to be used.
Remember, unless a doctor tells you otherwise, you should never stop taking your medications. Abandoning treatment can lead to other symptoms or serious conditions.
Sources consulted: American Heart Association, US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, World Health Organization (WHO).