Common Myths About Hypertension: Are False Assumptions Killing You Silently?
Myth 1: It only happens to old people.
Fact: Young adults are at risk of hypertension. A young person may be hypertensive without being aware of it, owing to the fact that it usually does not present with symptoms. Therefore, it is recommended that everyone starts checking their blood pressure as early as 25 years. Untreated hypertension leads to heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and so on. A recent study found that young people (18 -30 years) with mild hypertension, are twice at risk of heart failure by the time they get to 40 – 49 years, especially in black people.1,2,3
One’s risk is increased by factors like smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, leads a stressful lifestyle among others.4,5,6
Myth 2: I don’t have any symptoms so I do not have hypertension.
Fact: Hypertension is dubbed “the silent killer”. It has no specific symptoms, as a result many do not know they have hypertension and often feel fine.
In rare cases, some people may have headache, nervousness or dizziness. The best way to know is by checking your blood pressure regularly.
American Heart Association recommends that no one should diagnose hypertension in themselves but should visit their doctor. Untreated hypertension leads to stroke, heart failure, blindness, and damage to the nerves of the leg, feet and hands.3,7,8,9
Myth 3: Hypertension can be cured.
Fact: Hypertension can not be cured. However you can lower your blood pressure by making healthy changes to your lifestyle, including exercising regularly, at least 30 minutes for 5 days in a week, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, weight loss.
If you are unable to lower your blood pressure through lifestyle modification, your doctor will prescribe a daily medication for hypertension. These drugs work daily and do not cure hypertension. Anytime you stop taking your medication, your BP will go back up.10
Myth 4: There is hypertension in my family so I cannot escape it.
Fact: Not everyone with family history of hypertension will get the disease especially if you avoid certain risk factors such as obesity, engage in regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, stop smoking. It can be prevented if you keep a healthy and conscious lifestyle.11,12
Myth 5: Once my blood pressure is under control, I can stop taking my medicine.
Fact: Stopping or missing the dose of your blood pressure medication will make it go right back up. You need to take your blood pressure medication daily to keep it under control. Numbers matter, any increase in your blood pressure above normal increases your risk of heart failure, stroke, bleeding into the brain, blindness and kidney failure.10
Myth 6: If I reduce/stop my salt intake, I do not have to take my medications.
Fact: Reducing your salt intake may help lower your blood pressure, however studies have not shown that salt reduction alone helps normalize one’s blood pressure. To keep your numbers within the normal range you need to also keep to a healthy diet and lifestyle and engage in adequate physical activity.12,13,14,15
Myth 7: I can take any kind of medication for hypertension, I can even share my friend’s/spouse’s.
Fact: There are different kinds of blood pressure medications available. One class type does not serve all. Several factors like your age, gender, presence of other conditions like diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease, will determine the type your doctor will recommend for you. The doctor will follow you over a period of time to determine which of the meds works best for you.10,13 It is dangerous to share someone’s medication or take one not recommended by your doctor.
Myth 8: It is enough to check my blood pressure only when I go to the hospital.
Fact: Everyone with hypertension needs a home BP monitor. You will need to check your blood pressure at home frequently to ascertain control. You will also need a BP journal to take down the readings so your doctor can determine if it is under control or if further interventions are needed.
Remember to take your BP monitor with you to some of your appointments, this way your healthcare provider can assess its functionality. If you can not afford a home BP monitor, several pharmacies do BP check for free or may charge you a token.
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