Your blood pressure measures how much blood goes through your blood vessels and the amount of resistance the blood has to overcome to pass through these channels.
The blood pressure is highest when the heart beats, and doctors refer to it as “systolic pressure.” When the heart is at rest between beats, blood pressure falls. This reduction is known as “diastolic pressure.”
High blood pressure (hypertension) is when the force of blood pushing through the vessels is consistently higher than normal. The quantity of blood pumped, and level of resistance determine whether blood pressure is high or not.
When blood vessels are narrow, the pressure required for blood flow increases, this condition, in turn, results in high blood pressure (hypertension).
Hypertension is a prevalent health condition, and many people live with it for a long time without knowing it. About 116 million people in the US have high blood pressure.
Since this condition develops over time, many people never show signs or symptoms of high blood pressure till their blood pressure gets to dangerously high levels. Severe hypertension can cause shortness of breath, flushing, and dizziness.
High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels leading to complications like atherosclerosis, vision loss, stroke, kidney damage, and heart failure. However, it can be easily detected with regular health check-ups. Primary treatments for hypertension include medications, lifestyle changes, and home remedies.
Below, we’ll be looking at varying blood pressure readings and causes of hypertension. Also, we’ll provide context on viable treatment forms and how lifestyle changes are crucial in controlling high blood pressure.
Your blood pressure reading is stated as a fraction of the systolic pressure “over” the diastolic. It’s measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury). The ranges are:
- Less than 120/80 – Normal
- 120-129/less than 80 – Elevated
- 130-139/80-89 – Stage 1 High Blood Pressure
- 140 and above/90 and above – Stage 2 High Blood Pressure
- Above 180/above 120 – Hypertensive crisis
For most people with high blood pressure, the cause is unknown, and doctors term this essential or primary hypertension.
However, the risk factors that predispose people to this type of hypertension include:
- Genes: Hypertension runs in many families, which might be a contributing factor.
- Age: Individuals aged 65 or older have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Alcohol and Smoking: People who drink and smoke in extreme amounts are more likely to have hypertension.
- Obesity: Overweight individuals are prone to cardiac problems, including hypertension.
- Sedentary Living: Poor fitness levels is a risk factor for hypertension.
- High Salt Consumption: Sodium-containing foods have links with cases of high blood pressure
High blood pressure with an identifiable cause is known as secondary or non-essential hypertension.
While kidney disease is the most common cause of secondary hypertension, there are other contributing factors, including:
- Birth control pills
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Congenital heart defects
- Thyroid problems
- Illegal drug use
- Chronic alcohol use
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will determine the appropriate treatment course for you, depending on hypertension variation and factors that led to it.
In cases where there is an underlying cause, doctors will focus on treating the condition first. Drugs classes for lowering blood pressure include:
- Calcium channel blockers
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Alpha-2 agonists
Lifestyle changes for hypertension are not substitutes for medical treatment. However, they may lower blood pressure and reduce the need for drugs.
Adopting a Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a primary lifestyle adjustment, which can lower your blood pressure by 11mmHg. A DASH diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy that’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
A healthy diet also reduces the risks of potential complications like cardiac arrest and stroke. Cutting out or significantly restricting sodium from your diet can also cause a 5 to 6mmHg blood pressure reduction.
Doctors recommend an average daily sodium intake of 1500mg to 2300mg. Avoiding processed foods and reading labels when you go shopping or eat out is vital in regulating the amount of sodium you consume.
Obesity is a leading cause of hypertension. Blood pressure often increases with increasing weight, and overweight individuals often experience sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that raises blood pressure.
Engaging in regular exercises and taking other steps to reduce your waistline if you are overweight can lower your blood pressure significantly. Exercising regularly for about 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes daily can bring down your blood pressure by 5 to 8mmHg.
Exercises to reduce hypertension include running, swimming, cycling, and walking. You can speak with your doctor or physiotherapist to devise a personalized exercise routine.
Consuming extreme amounts of alcohol can raise your blood pressure and reduce the potency of medications. Smoking also damages body tissues and hardens the blood vessels.
Your blood pressure increases temporarily once you’re done smoking. People who have hypertension must reduce alcohol intake and quit smoking.
Chronic stress can lead to increased blood pressure. People who react to stress by drinking, smoking, or eating unhealthy food can be at risk of hypertension.
Adopting stress management techniques like relaxing, meditation, massage, yoga, and deep breathing can significantly lower your blood pressure. Knowing why you get stressed and eliminating or reducing the triggers can also help.
You must track your blood pressure to see if your treatments and lifestyle changes are working. Ambulatory blood pressure monitors are easy to use and widely available, and your doctor will advise you on blood pressure monitoring from the comfort of your home.
Hypertension treatment evolves, and we recommend scheduling regular appointments with the doctor about your progress and changes you may need to make concerning treatment.
Hypertension is a common and potentially severe condition. However, it is highly treatable and does not have to disrupt your life. Since hypertension doesn’t present symptoms at its early stages, many people don’t find out about it till there’s a severe problem.
Attending regular screenings, especially if you are at risk, is crucial to detect hypertension on time. This way, the condition is easier to manage. With proper treatment and lifestyle adjustments, complete reversal is a possibility.