Aneurysm, stroke, heart failure—these are just a few of the potentially fatal health conditions that can stem from having high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This becomes more concerning when you consider the fact that most people who have these underlying conditions experience few or no symptoms.
Often dubbed the “silent killers,” high blood pressure and high cholesterol can affect you for years without knowing it, slowly chipping away at your health until something bad happens.
So what can you do? When it comes to matters related to your blood pressure and cholesterol, knowledge is power and is the first step.
Understanding Your Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol
Without any obvious symptoms to watch for, one way to assess your health in relation to your blood pressure and cholesterol is simply to have them checked. Knowing the risk factors associated with these conditions is the first step to both recognition and treatment:
- Age: Your risk goes up as you get older.
- Gender: Young and middle-aged men are at a greater risk for developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol than women of the same age (though this discrepancy does not hold true for men and women in their later years).
- Lifestyle: Being sedentary and not exercising regularly can increase your risk (just like smoking, overeating and feeling stressed). Learn what you need to know about exercise, blood pressure and cholesterol
- Diet: Eating fatty, salty, processed foods and simply eating too much puts you at higher risk.
- Genetics: Having family members with high blood pressure and high cholesterol means you may be more likely to develop the conditions as well.
- Existing health conditions: Kidney diseases and thyroid disorders (among others) can both put you at an increased risk.
If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor and take a proactive approach to maintaining your health. While some of the risk factors are out of your control (age, gender, etc.), the more important ones are not! The best first step is to get active (strive for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week), stop smoking, manage stress, and adopt a healthy diet that limits calories, sugar, fat and salt consumption. These small changes are the best medicine and can have a huge impact on your health.
The Importance of Getting Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Checked
Knowing the risk factors associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol is a great start, but getting tested regularly is essential. Fortunately, blood pressure and cholesterol tests can both be completed quickly and easily with a visit to your doctor.
Why is this so important? As mentioned previously, high blood pressure and high cholesterol (along with smoking and diabetes) are the top contributors to heart disease in the U.S. — which is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States.
By getting tested and knowing your numbers, you and your doctor can gauge your heart health and develop a treatment plan if necessary, which always includes some simple lifestyle changes.
Learn how high blood pressure is diagnosed
Learn how high cholesterol is diagnosed
How Often Should I Have My Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Checked?
Blood pressure tests should be completed every 1 to 2 years at the very least. If your levels are high or if you have risk factors for the condition, your doctor may advise more frequent checks.
For cholesterol, the general recommendation is to begin testing at age 30 and to repeat the test every 3-5 years (but your doctor may advise more frequent tests based on your results and other health conditions or risk factors)
What to Watch For
Although high blood pressure and high cholesterol often don’t come with symptoms initially, you will eventually notice problems as they progress. Chest pain, leg pain, headaches, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath are some of the heart disease warning signs. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms.
Top Takeaways Regarding Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Remember: High blood pressure and high cholesterol are serious, life-threatening medical conditions that are not only dangerous because they lead to heart and other diseases, but also because they come with no warning signs. Fortunately, even with a strong family history for cardiovascular disease, these things are very treatable with lifestyle modifications alone in most cases. Medications and other treatments are often helpful as well. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re healthy just because you feel okay. Know your risk factors, get tested regularly, and start taking steps to improve your health now.