When a medical doctor takes a patient’s blood pressure, he or she measures the force exerted by the blood on the arteries’ wall as it flows through them. If the pressure is too high over a long period, it could damage the blood vessels.
When the blood vessels are damaged, it could snowball into different complications, some of which are life-threatening. These complications include stroke, heart failure, kidney, vision loss, etc.
Thanks to science, there are several ways of managing high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). It often doesn’t cause symptoms, though, with regular screening, you can tell if you need to start taking preventive measures.
In the United States, over 75 million people, which is about 29% of the country’s total population, have high blood pressure, a stat published by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention CDC.
This piece will shed more light on what it (high blood pressure) is, the symptoms, causes, and medications.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
The heart is a muscle that helps to pump blood around the body. As the blood flows through the arteries, it delivers oxygen to the body’s organs. Sometimes, when the body isn’t functioning well, it becomes more difficult for the heart to pump blood. This condition could be a result of the arteries becoming too thin. When high blood pressure becomes persistent, it can put a strain on the streets.
So, what exactly is high blood pressure? It occurs when your blood pressure spikes up to an unhealthy level. The pressure measurement considers blood passing through the blood vessels and the level of resistance the blood meets while the heart pumps “out” blood.
When the walls of the arteries become thinner, it increases resistance. The narrower the streets, the higher your blood pressure/hypertension will be. Over an extended period, and increased pressure can lead to different health issues, especially heart-related problems.
The condition is common. Interestingly, after the guidelines were changed, it is expected that close to having American adults will be diagnosed with hypertension. It usually develops within a few years, and the scariest thing about it is that you won’t notice any symptoms. However, without the signs, hypertension can still damage your blood vessels and many vital organs in your body.
Early detection is essential. Taking regular blood pressure readings will help you notice any changes.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a silent condition. Most people won’t experience any of the symptoms. It may take years or decades to get to a level where it becomes severe, and the symptoms become very obvious. Here are some of the symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Blood in urine
- Chest pain
- Visual changes
Symptoms of high blood pressure in women
The presence of some hormonal factors means the risk of high blood pressure may be unique to each gender (males and females). Some of these factors in women include:
- The use of birth control pills
- Sudden Menopause
Having high blood pressure during pregnancy is one of the signs of preeclampsia are:
- Swelling caused by edema
- Abdominal pain
- Vision changes
These are some of the common symptoms that need immediate medical attention. However, waiting for these symptoms to show before taking medical steps is not advisable as it could be fatal.
We recommend getting regular blood pressure readings. Most medical professionals take these readings at every appointment. If you have symptoms that only show every year, discuss your doctor’s issue about the risks for high blood pressure and the other readings, you may need to study your blood pressure.
For instance, if you have risk factors for developing heart disease or a family history that shows it’s in the bloodline (in other words, you are genetically predisposed to it). Your doctor may advise that you have the blood pressure readings done twice a year. Doing so will help you stay on top of any developing issue before it turns problematic.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
There are two forms of hypertension, primary and secondary hypertension. Each one has a different causative factor.
- Primary hypertension
Primary hypertension is also referred to as essential hypertension. It develops over time with no definite cause—in most people, primary hypertension – quite common.
Researchers are still unsure about the mechanisms that cause blood pressure to increase slowly. A combo of factors may be responsible for this. These factors are:
- Physical changes
When a part of your body changes, you may begin to experience specific difficulties in your entire body. High blood pressure stands out amongst one of these difficulties. For instance, it is believed that kidney function changes due to aging can upset the body’s natural balance of fluid and salt. The difference may cause your body’s pressure to increase drastically.
Just as we’ve stated earlier, some people are genetically predisposed to this condition. It may be from genetic abnormalities or gene mutations inherited from your parents.
Low diet and unhealthy lifestyle choices tend to take their toll on the body. Over time, our lifestyle choices can lead to many health issues, such as weight problems. Obesity or being overweight can increase the risk of having hypertension.
- Secondary hypertension
This (secondary hypertension) occurs quickly and can turn more severe compared to primary hypertension. Different conditions may be responsible for secondary hypertension; they are:
- The side effects of medications
- Kidney disease (insert the kidney disease link from the previous post here)
- Congenital heart disease
- Problems with the thyroid
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Certain endocrine tumors
- Adrenal gland difficulties
- Drug abuse of the consumption of illegal drugs
- Alcohol abuse
Understanding High Blood Pressure Reading
Two numbers form a blood pressure reading. They are
- Systolic pressure:
The systolic number is the top or first number. It indicates the pressure in the arteries when your heart pumps out blood.
- Diastolic pressure
The diastolic number, on the other hand, is the bottom or second number. It indicates the pressure in your arteries between beats of your heart.
Five categories that help define blood pressure readings for adults.
- Elevated: systolic number is usually between 120- and 129-mm Hg, and the number is lower than 80 mm Hg. Doctors don’t treat elevated B.P with medication. Instead, they encourage you to change your lifestyle to help lower the numbers.
- Stage 1 hypertension: when a systolic number reads between 1300 and 139 millimeters of mercury, or the diastolic number reads between 80- and 89-mm Hg, this phase is known as stage 1 hypertension.
- Stage 2 hypertension: During this stage, the systolic number reads above 140 mm Hg, or the diastolic number reads higher than 90 mm Hg.
- Healthy: a healthy B.P reading is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
- Hypertensive crisis: it means the systolic number is over 180 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Blood in this range needs urgent medical attention. If you experience any symptoms such as headache, chest pain, visual changes, or shortness of breath, your blood pressure is high; instant medical care is needed.
Medication for High Blood Pressure
Many people with high blood pressure go through the trial-and-error stage when treating the condition. Trying different medicines isn’t a bad idea, as long as your medical doctor knows about it. You’ll have to go through the trial-and-error phase until you find a suitable medication that works for you. Here are some trusted medicines used to treat high blood pressure:
Excess fluid and the presence of high sodium levels in the body will increase blood pressure. Diuretics, also referred to as water pills, are designed to help the kidneys remove excess sodium from the body. When the sodium leaves, extra fluids flow into your urine from the bloodstream, reducing the blood pressure.
- ACE inhibitors
The human body produces angiotensin, a chemical the causes the artery walls and blood vessels to shrink. To stop the body from making this artery-wall- and blood-vessel-tightening chemical, ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) is applied. ACE prevents the body from having lots of it (angiotensin). Preventing the excess production of this chemical reduces blood pressure by helping the blood vessels relax.
With beta-blockers, your heartbeat slows your heartbeat and let it beat with less force. This process ultimately reduces the amount of blood pumped via the arteries with every beat, which reduces the blood pressure. The medication also blocks some hormones that are responsible for raising your blood pressure.
- Alpha -2 agonists
Alpha-2 agonists are a type of medication that changes the nerve impulses that tightens the blood vessels. It causes the blood vessels to relax, thus, reducing blood pressure.
- Calcium channel blockers
The calcium channel blocks some calcium from entering into the cardiac muscles that surround the heart. The medication causes reduced heartbeats as well as lowered blood pressure.
Home remedies for high blood pressure
Living a healthy lifestyle can help manage the factors that cause high blood pressure.
- Switching to a healthy diet
Switching to a healthy diet isn’t as easy as it sounds. However, the results that come with it are tremendous. It is essential to develop a healthy diet to properly manage hypertension while reducing the risks of adverse effects or complications such as stroke, heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.
Learn more about healthy diets by reading some of the related posts recently published on our website:
- Increasing your physical activity.
To reach a healthy weight, you need to be more active physically. Exercising will help you shed some pounds, strengthen the cardiovascular system, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. S
Always aim for 150 minutes’ worth of workout sessions each week, which is about 30 minutes fiver times every week.
- Maintaining a healthy body mass.
If you are obese or overweight, losing weight should be on your bucket list. There are few ways to lose weight, including placing yourself on a keto diet or engaging in physical activities.
- Living a healthy lifestyle
Living a cleaner lifestyle will help you reduce stress. For instance, if you are a smoker treating high blood pressure, your actions will be counterproductive as some chemicals in the tobacco are known to damage the tissues in the body and causing the walls of the blood vessels to be rigid.
- Stress management
Asides from working out, some other activities include:
- Tai chi or yoga
- Deep breathing
- Muscle relaxation
Effects of high blood pressure
Hypertension is a silent condition, and it can cause enormous damage to the body for many years before the symptoms start to pop up. Some of the effects of hypertension include:
- Damaged brain
The brain needs a healthy supply of oxygen-filled blood to function correctly. Hypertension can reduce the brain’s supply of blood. When blood flow is blocked temporarily, it can cause some specific brain cells to die. The temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain is known as transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). While the significant blockages of blood flow cause the brain cells to die is referred to as a stroke.
- It puts your heart in overdrive.
Nothing in overdrive works efficiently for a long time; it gets damaged. The same theory applies here! High blood pressure makes the heart work unhealthily harder than it needs to. High blood pressure spikes up blood vessels’ pressure, forcing the heart’s muscles to exceed the healthy threshold. In short, this could damage the heart. When the heart starts to pump more frequently, it increases your of having one of the following:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Sudden cardiac death
How to prevent high blood pressure
If you have some of the risk factors for high hypertension, you can lower these risks by taking these steps:
- It’s not just a dinner plate – work on it.
Rather than the usual meat and three sides, work on a healthier meal. Your heart should be a condiment. Eating steaks with a side salad isn’t as healthy and efficient as eating a giant salad topped with smaller steaks.
- Switch to a healthy diet
Avoid junks and switch to healthy plants. Eat seven servings of fruits and veggies every day. Next, aim to add more serving every day for two to three weeks. Then, seek to add more serving (at least one). The goal is to have ten servings of different fruits and veggies each day.
- Shed the excess weight
Instead of a vague “lose weight” goal, set goals, talk with a medical professional about a suitable healthy weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a weight loss of 1 – 2 pounds per week would be a perfect baseline. What that means is, you want to set out eating 500 calories less every day. Then create a workout regimen that feels comfortable for you.
- Cut down on your sugar intake.
Try out low-carb meals, learn to reduce your intake of sugar-sweetened foods such as sodas, flavored yogurts, and cereals. Look out for package meals as they tend to hide the unnecessary sugar, so make sure you read the labels before eating.
Common questions about high blood question
- What time of day is blood pressure highest?
The blood pressure is usually lower at night (understandably so). However, your blood pressure starts to rise once you wake in the morning. It continues to increase during the day, usually peaking in the afternoon. Meanwhile, late in the afternoon and evening, it (your blood pressure) starts to drop again.
- How to lower blood pressure immediately
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce your stress
- Cut back on your caffeine intake.
- Eat a healthy meal (always)
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Quit smoking
- How long does it take for blood pressure to go down?
It takes around three days to 3 weeks for blood pressure to subside.
- Can stress cause high blood pressure?
Yes! The human body produces lots of hormones when in a stressful situation. The surge of hormones increases your blood pressure, though temporarily.
- How high can blood pressure go before it kills you?
If high blood pressure is left untreated, a 180/120 or higher reading usually results in an 85% chance of death in a year.
- Does sugar raise blood pressure?
Sugar can increase blood pressure in different ways.
- Can low blood pressure kill you?
You need the blood to flow at an amount of pressure to get to the brain. The condition itself won’t kill you. However, what happens when you get lightheaded, and fall could lead to death. For instance, you could hit your head on your way down.
- What does smoking do to your blood pressure?
The nicotine present in cigarettes and other tobacco products can make your heart beat faster and thinning your blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure.
On a final note, many people with this condition do not have symptoms, so do not leave your high blood pressure untreated. You must have regular screening, especially if you are with any health risk. Also, keep a log of all the blood pressure readings and not miss the doctor’s appointment. Please share your thoughts with us!