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Primary Care - Front Line to Hypertension: January 28, 2014

You wouldn’t guess by looking that Richard Barnhart is suffering from a potentially life-threatening condition.

“Doctor told me – checked my blood pressure -  told me I have hypertension,” says Barnhart.

That’s usually the way it goes with hypertension.

“Hypertension is often known as the ‘silent killer’ because most patients have no symptoms at all,” says Dr. Gary Goforth, family practice with Lee Memorial Health System.

Discovered through regular medical checkups, family doctors are often the front line in combatting the condition.

“Primary care physicians are typically the ones that would diagnose and treat most cases of hypertension. Only in the unusual cases where you have very severe hypertension, would they go to cardiologist,” says Dr. Goforth.

Blood pressure refers to the force that blood pushes against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps. The two-number reading reflects when your heart is contracting and then between beats. A high blood pressure reading is a sign your heart is working too hard.

“It’s normal for blood pressure to go up when you’re stressed or you’re exercising. But when it’s persistently elevated, it puts you at risk of having heart attack, strokes and other cardiovascular events,” says Dr. Goforth.

It’s estimated about half the people who have hypertension, don’t know it. Identifying it helps your doctor help you.

“We’d like to do lifestyle changes. So asking patients to lose weight, reduce salt in their diet, reduce alcohol intake. All things that are very effective in lowering blood pressure,” says Dr. Goforth.

And all working for Barnhart; he’s successfully battled hypertension for 40 years.

“I get medication, I exercise and I keep my weight down,” says Barnhart.