Updated: Jul 11
Around 47% of all adults in the United States suffer from High Blood Pressure (also known as hypertension). Most of them occur in the southern states. Also, the most affected race is blacks. And it is more common among men than women. It is not a bad idea for you to have a clearer picture of what is high blood pressure, its causes, risk factors, complications, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
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What is high blood pressure?
When the blood passes through the blood vessels, it exerts pressure against them. If the pressure exceeds certain specific numbers, it is said to be high. The two numbers that you have seen when your blood pressure is checked are systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure represents the pressure in your arteries when the heart contracts to pump blood to the rest of the body. While diastolic pressure is the pressure in your arteries at the moment that the heart is not contracting but receiving the blood back from the body.
There is no known specific cause for developing primary hypertension, which is the one that progresses over the years. However, secondary hypertension, which comes as an effect of another medical problem, can be caused by conditions like:
Several risks factors have been identified:
Excessive alcohol consumption
Over time, when high blood pressure is not controlled and left untreated, it will cause damage to the blood vessels. For example, it can cause a bulge (aneurysm) in the artery wall that can rupture. The arteries can also lose elasticity and become narrow, limiting the passage of blood. Here, you can suffer coronary artery disease, which leads to chest pain (angina), irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), and heart attacks. Your brain also suffers the consequences. For example, you could have mini-strokes (transient ischemic attacks), strokes, and dementia. Your kidneys and your eyes can also be affected. And last but not less important, both men and women can have sexual dysfunction when their blood pressure is out of control. When the heart has to pump harder to move the blood out, it can make it get enlarged. Also, so much effort can weaken the heart, leading to heart failure and potential death.
In most cases, if you don’t get a regular medical checkup, you won’t notice that you have high blood pressure since most of the time there won’t be any signs or symptoms. That is why is called “the silent killer”. When you develop symptoms, the blood pressure is usually very high and they can include:
Shortness of breath
Blood in urine
Diagnosing you with high blood pressure will take several blood pressure readings in three or more different appointments. Only one blood pressure reading is not enough. Blood pressure can vary during the day, plus many patients have their blood pressure up when they are in a doctor’s office. Therefore, you will be ordered to use a blood pressure monitor to check your blood pressure at home at different times of the day and keep a record to bring to your next doctor’s appointment. Once the diagnosis is made, several other tests will be needed to know the extent of the damage in other organs.
Know the numbers
Prevention and Treatment
The best thing that you can do to improve your blood pressure is to change your lifestyle habits. It is recommended to have a healthy diet, low in salt and low in fats. Also, exercise regularly, do not drink alcohol, and do not smoke. Your doctor will offer a medication treatment depending on your current health status. It is very important to take your medications daily as prescribed to keep your blood pressure under control. At first, maybe a few adjustments will be needed as your body adjusts to the changes.
High blood pressure is a manageable condition if you follow healthy lifestyle habits and your medical recommendations. Many of its complications can be avoided with proper care, too. Please stay healthy and stay tuned for the next topic.
1. High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension’s effects on your body. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868 Accessed on January 17, 2022.
2. Causes of High Blood Pressure. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/blood-pressure-causes Accessed January 17, 2022.
3. High blood pressure (hypertension). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373417 Accessed January 17, 2022.
4. High Blood Pressure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm Accessed on January 17, 2022.
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