Heart Health - February 2020

image of Larry Catlett
Ask the Doctor
by Larry Catlett, M.D.

Question: My blood pressure is 136/84. That does not seem very high to me. Are there any risks associated with that level?

Answer: Assuming you have had several measurements to confirm this blood pressure level, you have Stage 1 Hypertension. Blood pressure at this level can cause damage to numerous body systems over a long period of time and most people would experience no symptoms at all until they developed functional problems with their sexual function, vision, kidneys, heart or brain.

Much of the ultimate damage cause by various levels of hypertension result from damage to your blood vessels. Damage occurs to vessels of all sizes resulting in stiffened vessels that raise the intravascular pressure. Stiff and injured small vessels result in decreased delivery of required oxygen and nutrients and removal of waste resulting in injured retinal, renal, heart and larger vessels that may eventually result in aneurysms that can rupture and cause sudden death with minimal warning. High blood pressure vessel damage also compounds the effects of diabetes on the body.

Many of those folks diagnosed with lower levels of high blood pressure (elevated blood pressure and Stage 1 Hypertension) will continue to increase their blood pressure and its harmful effects over time if left unattended. Early on the best and most painless treatment is lifestyle change (weight loss, smoking cessation, exercise and diet changes). Waiting to address the issue makes it more likely you will need medications and more severe lifestyle restrictions to handle the problem.

Check your blood pressure regularly and continue working towards those small changes that can keep the ill effects of blood pressure at bay. If you have made and sustained efforts to improve your daily nutrition, get regular exercise, prioritize sleep, reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption (conscientiously mitigate stress) but your blood pressure persists as elevated and ranges up into Stage 1-2, get to a doctor soon and get medicated.

Dr. Larry Catlett is the founder of Occupational Medical Consulting, LLC, a Maine business that for over 20 years, partners with companies nationwide to create a sustainable healthy workforce culture and reduce employee health risks. OMC became a subsidiary of Wellness Workdays in Hingham, MA in December 2018.