Hypertension, better known as high blood pressure, has been called a silent killer because most people don’t recognize they have it since there are generally no symptoms or warning signs. At the Hypertension Clinic, part of the Michigan Medicine Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Rehabilitation program, our hypertension specialists serve as consultants for your physician to get you the proper diagnosis and individualized treatment program to get your blood pressure under control.
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body. It’s normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day, but if it stays up, you have high blood pressure. When blood pressure is high, it starts to damage the blood vessels, heart and kidneys, which can lead to heart attack, stroke and other problems. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure. And most of the time, the cause is unknown. However, hypertension is treatable.
While often it can be difficult to find the exact cause of hypertension, a variety of factors can raise blood pressure, including:
- Being overweight
- Too much alcohol
- Too much salt
- Family history of high blood pressure
To diagnose hypertension, we conduct urine and blood tests. We order an electrocardiogram to look for organ damage, and an ultrasound to look for hardening of the heart muscle.
We also offer 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, which is a way of determining when patients experience hypertension, especially during sleep time. We attach it for you, and then you bring it back the next day so our technician can scan it. There can be as many as a few hundred blood pressures measured during that 24-hour period. From that, we can see your average blood pressure and heart rate, which helps us to formulate a proper treatment program for you.
About 85 percent of the patients we see have had a hypertension diagnosis for some time. However, their physicians want their patients seen by us either because they haven’t reached their goals or are intolerant to medications. They may also require further diagnostic testing to see if their hypertension is treatable by surgery or other procedures, such as an angioplasty.
Your therapeutic strategy may mean lifestyle changes and medication. For severe hypertension, you may need surgical intervention. In a small number of patients surgery is necessary to remove hormone secreting tumors that cause hypertension, and in some the hypertension is cured or improved by doing an angioplasty or surgery on the arteries leading to the kidney.
Education is key to controlling high blood pressure. Accurately taking and tracking your blood pressure at home is more valuable for treatment decision making than relying on pressure readings during physician visits. Understanding drug information, learning about proper salt intake, and finding approaches for lowering anxiety and stress are also important pieces of the education process. Our multidisciplinary team will make sure you are armed with all the information you need to successfully handle your hypertension at home. We can also provide you with an individualized weight-loss program, if necessary.