Expert: High blood pressure is nothing to take lightly

Image 1 of 4

It's not as bad as stepping on that big doctor's office scale, but sometimes getting your blood pressure checked can also deliver a discouraging number. 
"Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80. Elevated is anything over that," explains Dr. Sindhu Koshy.

The St. John Macomb Oakland cardiologist warns high blood pressure is nothing to take lightly. 

"We do call it the silent killer because there are no symptoms ... until it's really too late," she says. "You might develop a headache, shortness of breath or chest pain, but that's when your blood pressure is incredibly high and you're at risk of having either a stroke or a heart attack."

New research just out of Cleveland looked at data from 38,000 patients in 2016 who were believed to have high blood pressure. They found when those patients were given a second check, even minutes later at the same doctor visit, their readings were lower. In more than 30 percent of those patients, it was low enough to be within the normal range. 

"You walk in, take off your coat, hang it up and the first thing they check is your blood pressure. Really, blood pressure should be checked after you've sat down for five minutes," Dr. Koshy says. 

Sometimes it's white coat syndrome, the anxiety of the doctor that drives up blood pressure, but sometimes it's just the traffic you fought to get there. 

So, how to make sure your getting an accurate reading? 

First know your numbers before you walk into the doctor’s office, and then if you get a high reading, request another check. 

If your blood pressure is high next comes the challenge of bringing it down. 

"Decreasing the salt in your diet, exercise, watching what you eat; those things can reduce blood pressure. Losing 5 lbs. will bring your blood pressure down about 10 points," Dr. Koshy says. "If those are not working and blood pressure remains high, or you have a family history or other risk factors, like coronary disease, diabetes, kidney disease, you need to be on medication for blood pressure. 

Learn your numbers, including blood pressure, this weekend at our Healthy Heart Project. Free heart screenings from 7 a.m. - 10 a.m. at three locations. It's a whole heart checkup, completely free. You can get more information here -