We’ve all been to the doctor and had a nurse take our blood pressure. The nurse puts the cuff on the upper arm, places the stethoscope on the crook of the elbow and starts pumping the cuff up. No big deal, right? Well, not necessarily the case if you have hypertension—commonly known as high blood pressure.
Hypertension is a huge issue, affecting more than 100 million adults in the United States. It can also lead to a host of other health problems if it is left unchecked. Brian Henry, MD, a cardiologist with Banner Health in Northern Colorado, explains how serious elevated blood pressure can be for men.
Hypertension in men
Simply put, blood pressure is the pressure your blood puts on the walls of your blood vessels as it circulates through the body. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg) and is recorded as one number over another.
As a refresher, the first (top) number is the systolic blood pressure—the pressure when your heart beats. The second (bottom) number is the diastolic blood pressure and is a measurement of pressure in between beats.
A good blood pressure reading for men would be below 120/80 mm Hg. When it goes above 130/80, you are considered stage 1 hypertensive. Stage 2 hypertension would be 140/90 and above. A hypertensive crisis occurs when your blood pressure rises suddenly to 180/120 mm Hg and above.
Dr. Henry notes that blood pressure range always fluctuates, and it can increase with stress or during exercise. You probably wouldn’t be diagnosed with high blood pressure until after you have been checked a few times.
For men, the bad news is they are more likely to be found hypertensive than women.
Dr. Henry says the risk factors that cannot be changed include:
- Gender—men are more likely to develop hypertension than women
- Race—African-Americans have higher risk than other races
- Age—the older you get the more likely you will develop high blood pressure
- Family history—Dr. Henry notes high blood pressure is twice as common in people with 1 or 2 hypertensive parents
- Chronic kidney disease—people with chronic kidney disease are at a greater risk for developing high blood pressure
Additionally, there are some risk factors that you can control as part of a healthy lifestyle. Those include:
- An unhealthy diet that is also high in sodium
- Not exercising
- Being overweight
- Drinking too much alcohol (more than two drinks per day for men)
- Smoking or using tobacco
- Having diabetes
[Monitoring your blood pressure at home? Learn more about "The Right Way to Take Your Blood Pressure at Home"]
Once a man is diagnosed with hypertension, he will need to get treatment. Dr. Henry says untreated high blood pressure can lead to the development of health conditions including kidney disease, coronary artery disease, lung disease, heart failure and stroke. It’s also one of the biggest contributors to cardiovascular disease and peripheral artery disease, according to Dr. Henry.
Dr. Henry says a key component to treating hypertension is making lifestyle changes, such as diet, weight loss and exercise. Dr. Henry recommends the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
“You should start with DASH diet and address risk factors,” Dr. Henry said. “The DASH diet substitutes magnesium and potassium for saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Everyone should be doing this.”
With stage 1 hypertension, you can expect your doctor to recommend changing your diet, losing weight and exercise. Dr. Henry says this alone can have a good impact on your blood pressure, but he estimates that around 80% of his patients still need medication to help.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with stage 2 hypertension, your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes and medication. Some of the medications your doctor may consider include diuretics, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).
In some cases where the patient has certain diseases, a doctor will automatically prescribe medications. Dr. Henry notes these diseases include diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.
Hypertension and stroke
It is critical that you get your blood pressure under control. As Dr. Henry mentioned, it can lead to several other conditions—including stroke.
For men who have had years of uncontrolled high blood pressure, the risk for stroke increases. Dr. Henry explains that hypertension leads to a build up of plaque in the arteries leading to the brain. This build up of plaque is called atherosclerosis, and hypertension can make blood vessels more prone to it by damaging the lining of the arteries.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone suffers from a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States. The CDC also reports that someone dies from a stroke almost every 4 minutes.
[Want to know your risk for stroke? Visit our free Stroke Risk Profiler.]
The good news is, if you have hypertension, it doesn’t mean the damage is done, according to Dr. Henry. With significant weight loss and living a healthy life, you can get off medications to control hypertension.
The most important thing for anyone—man or woman, young or old—is to measure your blood pressure and know your numbers.
“Have a regular conversation with your doctor about your blood pressure,” Dr. Henry said. “If you've known about high blood pressure and not had it treated, it can cause some serious problems. Knowing about your blood pressure is the number 1 modifiable risk factor to help prevent kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.”
Other useful articles:
- Do You Have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)? Here's What to Know
- 12 Steps Can Help You Prevent a Dangerous Stroke
- What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean and How They Impact Your Health
Updates were made to this article on February 16, 2023.