High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common disease that occurs when the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood throughout the body. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, vision loss, and more.
High blood pressure symptoms
Most people with high blood pressure experience no signs or symptoms of the condition. Therefore it has been dubbed the “silent killer.”
Symptoms of high blood pressure
In very rare cases, and if blood pressure reaches dangerous levels, a person may get headaches or more nosebleeds than normal.
If high blood pressure goes undetected for a long period, the condition can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.
For some people, it takes being diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure to learn that they also have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure causes
The following can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.
14 Major risk factors of high blood pressure
- Older age – The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age.
- 70 per cent of adults age 65 or older have hypertension.
- The risk of prehypertension and high blood pressure has been increasing in recent years in young people, too, including children and teens, possibly because of the rise of obesity in these populations.
- Family history – Having a family history of high blood pressure increases your risk, as the condition runs in families.
- Overweight – The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulating through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls. Obesity, especially abdominal obesity, also increases stiffness in arteries, which raises blood pressure.
- Lack of physical activity – Inactive People have a higher heart rate and higher blood pressure than those who are physically active. Not exercising also increases the risk of being overweight.
- Tobacco use When you smoke or chew tobacco, your blood pressure rises temporarily. Chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls, which can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. Being exposed to secondhand smoke may also increase your blood pressure.
- Dietary choices – What you choose to eat (and not to eat) can increase your risk for hypertension, including in the following ways:
- Too much sodium can cause your body to keep fluid, which increases blood pressure.
- Since potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells, not getting enough of it can raise blood pressure.
- While studies are limited, it’s thought that vitamin D may affect an enzyme produced by your kidneys that in turns affects your blood pressure, so having too little vitamin D may be harmful.
- Alcohol consumption – Drinking over two drinks a day for men and over one drink a day for women may raise your blood pressure.
- Stress – Being under intense stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you try to cope with stress by overeating, using tobacco, or drinking alcohol, all these can contribute to your high blood pressure.
- Chronic conditions – Having kidney disease, sleep apnea, or diabetes can affect blood pressure.
- Pregnancy – Being pregnant can cause an increase in blood pressure.
- Birth control – women who take birth control pills are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure. It’s more likely to occur when women are overweight, have had high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy, have a family history of blood pressure, smoke, or have mild kidney disease.
What is Secondary Hypertension?
When high blood pressure arises suddenly because of an identifiable condition, it’s called secondary hypertension.
Some conditions and drugs can lead to secondary hypertension, including the following;
- Kidney problems
- Adrenal gland tumours
- Thyroid problems
- Blood vessel defects
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Alcohol abuse or chronic alcohol use
- Illegal drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines
High blood pressure causing medicines
Medication that you take to control other health conditions, such as arthritis, epilepsy, or allergies, can cause your blood pressure to rise.
Such medication can also interfere with the ability of anti-hypertension drugs to keep blood pressure down.
Pain medication Common pain and anti-inflammatory medicines can lead to the retention of water, which can create problems with the kidneys and higher blood pressure.
- Decongestants – These medicines, which include common cough, cold, and allergy drugs, raise blood pressure and to alter the effectiveness of high blood pressure medication.
- Hormones – Birth control pills can also affect blood pressure. Women who take birth control pills usually experience a small rise in systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers that are determined when you get your blood pressure checked).
- Hormone therapy used to relieve symptoms of menopause can also cause a small rise in systolic blood pressure.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
Blood pressure checks are part of routine doctor visits. To check your blood pressure, your doctor will place an inflatable cuff around your arm and use a pressure-measuring gauge.
Before giving a diagnosis of high blood pressure, your physician will probably take two or three readings during separate appointments. This is because blood pressure varies throughout the day, and some people may be anxious before or during a doctor visit, causing elevated blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is consistently 130/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) or higher, you will most likely be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
In 2017, the American Heart Association (AHA) updated its definition of high blood pressure from the previous 140/90 mmHg or higher. The guidelines recommend earlier intervention to prevent further increases in blood pressure that could lead to health problems.
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will take a full medical history and conduct a physical exam. Other routine tests may be given, including a blood test, urine test, cholesterol test, and an electrocardiogram or ECG to check for signs of heart disease.
How long does high blood pressure last?
The time to lower blood pressure varies depending on how high your blood pressure is and the aggressiveness of your treatment. Medication can help lower blood pressure quickly, usually within a couple of days.
But because of potential side effects, a long-term aggressive medication regimen may not be sustainable.
Your doctor will prescribe lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure, too. Studies show a healthy diet and regular exercise make a significant impact on blood pressure levels within three weeks.
High blood pressure at home remedy
Most people who have high blood pressure will probably need lifelong treatment to help ward off or delay serious health problems brought on by the condition.
Options to treat high blood pressure may include eating a healthy diet with less salt, taking medication, and incorporating additional lifestyle changes. These include exercise, limiting alcohol intake, quit smoking, and managing stress with yoga or meditation.
People with high blood pressure should watch their sodium intake and stick to a healthy diet. Your doctor may recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is composed of foods that are low in sodium and cholesterol and rich in protein, fibre, and other nutrients.
The best way to prevent high blood pressure is to lead a healthy lifestyle. This includes;
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Reducing stress
Complications of high blood pressure
If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to the following;
- Heart attack, angina, or both
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease or failure
- Peripheral artery disease
- Vision loss
- Sexual dysfunction
Certain conditions may make a person more likely to develop high blood pressure. These include pregnancy and post-traumatic stress disorder.
What test I should do If I have high blood pressure?
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may advise the following tests to check for more signs of heart disease;
- Urine routine test
- Lipid profile
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Cholesterol test
- Blood sugar test
- Kidney profile
You may also interest in reading: High Cholesterol
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