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Myth vs. Fact - High Blood Pressure

Myth: High blood pressure isn’t normal, but it really isn’t that dangerous.

No way! When high blood pressure (hypertension) is left untreated, consequences over time can include damage to the heart and coronary arteries (heart attack, heart disease, congestive heart failure), stroke, kidney damage, vision loss, memory loss and more.

Myth: My family members have high blood pressure, so I’m sure to get it too.

Nix that idea. You are more likely to develop high blood pressure if your parents or close blood relatives have had the condition. But many people with a family history of hypertension avoid getting it themselves because of their lifestyle choices. To prevent high blood pressure, the American Heart Association advises you to get regular physical activity, eat a heart-healthy diet (including sodium intake of less than 1,500 mg per day), maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, avoid tobacco smoke, follow your doctor’s instructions for medications and limit alcohol if you drink.

Myth: I don’t have symptoms of high blood pressure—such as nervousness or sweating—so I must not have it.

The only way you can know for sure whether you have high blood pressure is to have a doctor or other health provider measure it. High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms or warning signs. In fact, many people who have it don’t know it.

Myth: High blood pressure can't affect your sex life

High blood pressure (hypertension) can actually contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to have sex because of problems with erections. For one thing, hypertension can damage the lining of blood vessels, which in turn can decrease blood flow. Any problem that limits blood flow can cause ED effective blood flow is essential for an erection.

Learn more about high blood pressure (hypertension) or have your blood pressure checked for free at our Health Library and Resource Center.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of the El Camino Hospital Health Beat magazine.

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