Caring for Your Heart: The Dangers of Hypertension and High Cholesterol

No one likes to think about their mortality. If you’re already put off by the thought, know that you have the power to take control over your health, but it requires being informed and committing to lifestyle changes. With that in mind, it’s important to talk about cardiovascular disease.

Think about when you were a teenager or in your early 20s. And if you are currently in your 20s, think about last Friday night or how you live while cramming for exams. You probably didn’t think too much about what you were putting in your body whether it was an entire pizza or a half dozen beers. You’re only young once, so no one begrudges you for eating that pizza. If your metabolism is still that fast, certainly enjoy it. However, at no point are we ever invincible. The dietary and lifestyle choices we make at every age are cumulative. Your high cholesterol or hypertension may not mean much now at 23 or even 30, but by 40 you can have a real problem on your hands.

If you’re middle aged or older and you have these conditions, your causes for concern are in the here and now. This is the age when heart attacks and stroke happen, to say nothing of heart disease that can silently progress over the years without a catastrophic event occurring.

This all isn’t meant to scare you, but rather empower you. You can reverse these things and improve the outlook for your health into your golden years. But, you have to start now. Here is what you need to know about heart disease and the major risk factors that contribute to it.

Statistics on heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The only thing that comes close is cancer. Consider that is “cancer” as in cumulative accounting for dozens of types, heart disease is far and away the biggest threat most people will face. The three key risk factors are considered high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Nearly half of Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Unless you go to a doctor to get them checked, you won’t know if you have two out of the three. You can’t feel high cholesterol nor can you really know if you have high blood pressure without a reading. The chances are good, though, that one of these conditions could be affecting you.

How high cholesterol and hypertension contribute

Your body needs some level of cholesterol to function. That’s why you hear things like “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDL cholesterol. The ideal mix ensures that cholesterol gets successfully carried through your arteries and to your liver for processing. What ends up happening, and why heart disease occurs, is that cholesterol can become a hard plaque that builds up in the artery. When plaque breaks off and blocks blood flow, that’s when a heart attack can occur.

When blood pressure is high, it’s consistently putting a higher strain on your arteries and heart muscle. Years of this can weaken and damage the components of your cardiovascular system. A combination of narrowed arteries and weakened heart muscles leaves you susceptible to stroke, heart attack, or even aneurysm. You could even end up in heart failure over the course of years.

If it’s discovered that you have one or both of these risk factors, action must be taken to bring them back down to safe levels.

How to improve your health

The first thing to do is quit smoking if you currently smoke. No one is saying that it’s easy. Many people require a few attempts. But, your doctor can help you if you’re having difficulty quitting. Additionally, changing your diet will be key. Lowering your intake of saturated fats and sodium can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Diet alone won’t do it, either. If you’re not currently exercising at a moderate to high pace at least three times a week, that will help lower your levels and improve your cardiovascular health. Some people don’t respond to diet and exercise alone, so your doctor may recommend medication to bring your cholesterol or blood pressure under control.


If you haven’t gotten your cholesterol or blood pressure checked recently, you owe it to yourself to get that done. If you have and you are aware that one or both are high, you should speak to your doctor about ways to lower them. It could end up being a combination of lifestyle changes and medication, but there’s only one way to find out the best course of action. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. The team at Danvers Family Doctors is dedicated to helping you lead a healthier life through professional care and providing you with the tools you need to take your health into your own hands.

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