Hypertension and Blood Pressure

What is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)? High BP

Last updated on September 26th, 2022 at 11:09 am

High blood pressure or hypertension rarely have noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes. The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is recorded in two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when your blood pressure increases to unhealthy levels. Your blood pressure measurement considers how much blood is passing through your blood vessels and the amount of resistance the blood meets while the heart is pumping.

Narrow arteries increase resistance. The narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure will be. Over the long term, increased pressure can cause health issues, including heart disease.

Blood Pressure Normal Range
  • high blood pressure is considered being 140/90mmHg or higher
  • ideal blood pressure is considered being between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
  • low blood pressure is considered being 90/60mmHg or lower

A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Hypertension is a silent condition. Many people won’t experience any symptoms. It may take years or even decades for the condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become obvious. Even then, these symptoms may be attributed to other issues.

Symptoms of high blood pressure can include:

  • headaches
  • shortness of breath
  • nosebleeds
  • flushing
  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • visual changes
  • blood in the urine

These symptoms require immediate medical attention. They don’t occur in everyone with hypertension, but waiting for a symptom of this condition to appear could be fatal.

The best way to know if you have hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings. Most doctors take a blood pressure reading at every appointment.

If you have a family history of heart disease or have risk factors for developing the condition, your doctor may recommend that you have your blood pressure checked thrice a year. This helps you and your doctor stay on top of any potential issues before they become problematic.

Types of High Blood Pressure

There are two types of high blood pressure or hypertension. Each type has a different cause.

Primary hypertension

Primary hypertension is also called essential hypertension. This kind of hypertension develops over time with no identifiable cause. Most people have this type of high blood pressure.

Researchers are still unclear what mechanisms cause blood pressure to slowly increase. A combination of factors may play a role. These factors include:

  • Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from your parents.
  • Physical changes: If something in your body changes, you may begin experiencing issues throughout your body. High blood pressure may be one of those issues. For example, it’s thought that changes in your kidney function because of ageing may upset the body’s natural balance of salts and fluid. This change may cause your body’s blood pressure to increase.
  • Environment: Over time, unhealthy lifestyle choices like lack of physical activity and poor diet can take their toll on your body. Lifestyle choices can lead to weight problems. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of hypertension.

Secondary hypertension

Secondary hypertension often occurs quickly and can become more severe than primary hypertension. Several conditions that may cause secondary hypertension include:

  • kidney disease
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • congenital heart defects
  • problems with your thyroid
  • side effects of medications
  • use of illegal drugs
  • alcohol abuse or chronic use
  • adrenal gland problems
  • certain endocrine tumours

Diet For High Blood Pressure

Risks of high blood pressure

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts an extra strain on your blood vessels, heart, and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys, and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of several serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these conditions.

  1. What are the 4 stages of hypertension?

    STAGE 1 or Prehypertension is 120/80 to 139/89.
    STAGE 2 or Mild Hypertension is 140/90 to 159/99.
    STAGE 3 or Moderate Hypertension is 160/100 to 179/109.
    STAGE 4 or Severe Hypertension is 180/110 or higher.

  2. What defines hypertension?

    Hypertension (HTN or HT), also known as high blood pressure (HBP), is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated.

  3. Can anxiety cause high blood pressure?

    Anxiety doesn’t cause long-term high blood pressure (hypertension). But episodes of anxiety can cause dramatic, temporary spikes in your blood pressure.

  4. Can lack of sleep cause high blood pressure?

    Over time, a lack of sleep could hurt your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure.

  5. Can hypertension be cured?

    Unfortunately, people with this type of high blood pressure (essential hypertension) cannot be cured. The most effective ways to lower your blood pressure are to make lifestyle changes and take any medicines your doctor gives you.

Check your blood pressure

The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test.

All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every four months. Getting this done is easy and could save your life.

If your blood pressure remains high, your doctor will probably conduct more tests to rule out underlying conditions. These tests can include:

  • urine test
  • cholesterol screening and other blood tests
  • test of your heart’s electrical activity with an electrocardiogram (referred to as an ECG)
  • ultrasound of your heart or kidneys

These tests can help your doctor identify any secondary issues causing your elevated blood pressure. They can also look at the effects of high blood pressure may have had on your organs.

During this time, your doctor may treat your hypertension. Early treatment may reduce your risk of lasting damage.

Causes of high blood pressure

It’s not always clear what causes high blood pressure, but certain things can increase your risk.

You’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure if you:

  • are over the age of 65
  • are overweight
  • are of African or Caribbean descent
  • have a relative with high blood pressure
  • eat too much salt and don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • don’t do enough exercise
  • drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks),
  • smoking
  • get little sleep or have disturbed sleep

Making healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it’s already high.

How to reduce blood pressure?

The following lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure:

  • reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a healthy diet
  • cut back on alcohol if you drink too much
  • lose weight if you’re overweight
  • exercise regularly
  • cut down on caffeine
  • stop smoking
  • try to get at least six hours of sleep a night

Some people with high blood pressure may also need to take one or more medicines to stop their blood pressure from getting too high.

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