High blood pressure: What young men need to know

Blood Pressure Measurement. Doctor Measuring Blood Pressure Using Professional Hospital Equipment.

 It’s a rare sight to see young men – especially between the ages of 18 to 39 – sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.  Generally, this age group has a tendency to only see a doctor when absolutely necessary.

On the one hand, it’s understandable why young men avoid routine checkups. Men from this age demographic are busy building careers, raising a family, and usually feel good enough not to worry much about their health.  When comparing the rate at which young women within this same age group make routine annual doctor visits compared to young men, women are more likely to see their family physician than their male counterparts.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is an excellent reason why young men should stop avoiding seeing their doctor. An elevated blood pressure often has few if any noticeable symptoms making it vital to be checked regularly.  But if a young man is skipping annual visits to his doctor, it could go unnoticed and unchecked.  Even a 2017 study published in the journal Hypertension, found that men ages 18 to 39 are lagging behind in blood pressure awareness and treatment.

Young men’s reluctance to have regular checkups

For young men, seeing their doctor routinely is not a priority for them. Even when they do, many may be unwilling to make lifestyle changes considering it’s a waste of time.  They know healthy eating, consistent exercise, and choosing not to smoke are good health habits to adopt. But, if they have no intention of changing, the value of seeing a doctor makes little sense to them.

Of course, this kind of thinking doesn’t add up.  Infrequent visits for routine physicals eventually lead to having to see a doctor regularly at some point in their lives due to significant health issues.

Why is high blood pressure a concern for young men?

There’s a reason why high blood pressure is called the silent killer – most people have no idea if or when their blood pressure is elevated.    Routine, yearly physical exams can keep track and catch issues of high blood pressure, helping to reduce the risk for serious health problems. When blood pressure goes unchecked and untreated, it damages the heart and other organs and can lead to life-threatening conditions that include heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease.

That’s why young men, who avoid seeing their family physician, could be completely unaware of high blood pressure and its harm to their health.  That’s why routine doctor visits can catch issues with blood pressure early. High blood pressure is often treated successfully by making simple lifestyle changes to help manage this chronic condition. The earlier a man’s high blood pressure is diagnosed with lifestyle changes and treatment begun, the greater likelihood of averting a medical crisis resulting in a much bigger lifestyle change.

How often should young men get their blood pressure checked?

Just like women, young men should see their physician and establish care when they are young and healthy so there is a base level.  Young men should schedule an annual physical even if they are currently having no health issues.  That way a blood pressure reading and other baseline measurements will be recorded yearly.  By doing this, it allows the physician and patient to know when things are heading in the wrong direction.  This not only makes a sound investment for a man’s health, but a financially sound investment as well.

Men who practice seeing their doctor yearly are practicing preventative care.  But if a man puts those vital visits off with a “wait and see” attitude, then if there is a major health crisis, it no longer is preventative care.  Then it becomes secondary care and which could include surgery and or a hospital stay with significant lifestyle changes such as being on expensive medications long term.

What is a normal blood pressure reading for a young man?

The American Heart Association’s recommendation for a normal blood pressure reading for people over 18 years of age is <120/80 mm Hg.  The first number (systolic) is a reading of the pressure in the blood vessels when your heart takes a beat.  The second number (diastolic) is the pressure when the heart is between beats.

Younger men with high blood pressure typically have high diastolic pressure while older men have high systolic pressure.  In older men, the systolic pressure rises and stiffens arteries.

What can cause high blood pressure in young men?

High blood pressure can be caused by numerous factors including a family history of hypertension.  In young men, one factor can be increased body weight and mass.  Often these men may have sleep apnea and coarctation of the aorta.  Coarctation is a narrowing in the upper portion of the aorta that decreases blood flow to the lower half of the body.  The body compensates by increasing blood pressure to provide the blood flow to the lower half.

Another possible cause hypertension for young men is called “white coat hypertension.” This is when a person is feeling anxiety in a doctor’s office resulting in an abnormally high blood pressure when their blood pressure is measured.  Doctors can rule this out with a 24-hour ambulatory test that measures blood pressure every 20 minutes while awake and every 30 minutes while asleep.

What steps can young men take to lower blood pressure?

Fortunately, there are many lifestyle changes that do not involve taking medication that anyone can do at any age to help reach and maintain a normal blood pressure:

  • Reach and maintain a healthy body weight with a target body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9.
  • Follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. This includes eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily along with low-fat dairy, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans.
  • Lower salt intake to less than 2,300 milligrams or about 1 teaspoon a day. Avoid eating salty processed foods such as chips, crackers, pretzels, fast food, pizza, and TV dinners.
  • Engage in regular physical activity such as brisk walking or running at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week.
  • Men should limit alcohol (if they drink) to a moderate consumption of no more than two drinks per day.
  • If a man smokes cigarettes or uses other forms of tobacco, he should take steps to quit.

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.

High blood pressure: What young men need to know
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