Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is the greatest risk factor for stroke. Therefore, if you have high blood pressure, managing it can significantly decrease your chances of having a stroke.
We see hundreds of people with stroke symptoms each year in WakeMed’s seven adult emergency rooms (ERs). Most of the first-time stroke patients who present in our ERs have hypertension. This is true in ERs throughout the United States.
How High Blood Pressure Causes Stroke
Blood pressure is the force of the blood on the insides of the arteries.
High blood pressure means the force of the blood is too strong, which damages the inner lining of the arteries.
That damage can add to any existing blockage in the artery wall and cause a stroke.
What’s the Best Way to Control Blood Pressure?
First, if you do not have a primary care provider, find one. Your primary care provider will measure your blood pressure every time you see him or her and will watch for trends – is it going up, going down or staying the same?
Your primary care provider can then prescribe the best treatment to help lower your blood pressure. Sometimes that means medication or diet and exercise changes or both. It varies from person to person.
Know Your Numbers
You also need to know your numbers. If your blood pressure shows a systolic between 120-129 and a diastolic less than 80, you may have pre-hypertension, which needs careful monitoring and lifestyle changes.
If your blood pressure reading shows a systolic pressure greater than 130 and a diastolic greater than 80, you will more than likely need medication.
If your blood pressure reading is equal to or higher than 140/90, you have high blood pressure.
Those at higher risk for high blood pressure include:
- People with a family history of hypertension
- African Americans
- People age 35+
- People who are overweight
- People who eat too much salt/sodium
- Women who use birth control pills
- People who are inactive
- Pregnant women
- People who drink too much alcohol
Start Now to Stop Stroke
As a physician who sees many patients and families dealing with stroke, I urge you to know your blood pressure by working with a qualified primary care provider. If it’s high, work with your doctor to get it under control. It can save your life.
About Susan Glenn, MD
*This blog post was last updated on 5/3/18.