Hypertension or high blood pressure happens when your blood pressure is raised to unhealthy levels. Blood pressure pertains to the measure of how much blood is running through your blood vessels and the resistance it meets when the heart is pumping.
Narrowing of the arteries can increase the resistance that the blood meets as it flows in the blood vessels. The narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure will be. It can lead to several health issues involving the heart, kidneys, eyes, and brain.
While it is common, the disease develops over time. You will not notice symptoms, and the damage will be gradual. Thus, early detection is essential with high blood pressure. Regular reading can help doctors determine whether your blood pressure is elevated and monitor its changes.
Treatment and management of hypertension involve prescription medication, and changes for a healthier lifestyle. If not treated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart attack.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
There are two kinds of hypertension, and different factors cause each of these types.
Primary Hypertension - also known as essential hypertension, this type develops over time without any identifiable causes. Most people have this kind of high blood pressure. There is a combination of factors perceived to play a role in the slow increase of blood pressure in Primary Hypertension. These include genes, physical changes, and the environment.
Some people are genetically predisposed to having hypertension. It can be due to genetic abnormalities or mutation of the genes that are inherited. Likewise, physical changes happening in your body can lead to high blood pressure. For instance, changes in kidney function due to old age may cause an upset in the body’s natural balance and lead to hypertension.
Additionally, unhealthy lifestyle choices like poor diet and lack of physical activity can negatively impact the body. It can lead to weight issues like obesity and increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Secondary Hypertension - often occurs quickly and can be more severe than the primary type of hypertension. Several conditions can cause this illness, including - congenital heart defects, kidney diseases, alcohol use, illegal drugs, thyroid problems, and others.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Hypertension can be diagnosed with as simple as taking a blood pressure reading. Checking one’s blood pressure is part of the routine when you visit your Doctor’s office. If you don’t usually have this, request to have one.
With elevated blood pressure, you may be requested to have more reading by your physician. Diagnosis for hypertension may be simple, but it is not based on one reading alone. There must be enough evidence pointing to a sustained problem. This illness may also be affected by environmental factors such as stress. Likewise, blood pressure can differ throughout the day.
On the other hand, if your blood pressure stays elevated, your physician will likely conduct additional tests to rule out underlying conditions. Some of these tests include the following:
- Urine Test
- Cholesterol and Blood Tests
- EKG or ECG (Electrocardiogram)
- Ultrasound of Kidneys and heart
Your doctor can identify other issues that are causing your raised blood pressure through these tests. Likewise, they can also check the effects of the condition on your other organs. Upon diagnosis, your doctor may provide treatment for your high blood pressure. Early treatment will lessen the risk of lifetime damage. Moreover, if lifestyle changes are not enough to stabilize your blood pressure, your doctor may give prescription medication.
Secondary High Blood Pressure Treatment
In some cases, high blood pressure is caused by an underlying health issue, and treatment options will focus on this condition. For instance, a medicine that you are using caused an elevated blood pressure, your physician will find another medicine without this effect.
There are also cases when hypertension is persistent despite treatment on its underlying causes. Physicians may work with you to plan out lifestyle changes and medication to help lower your blood pressure.
Likewise, a treatment plan for high blood pressure evolves. Some medications may work at first but will be less effective later on. Work closely with your physician for the refinement of your treatment.
What are Normal Conditions?
An optimal level of blood pressure should read under 120/80 mmHg. If your readings fall on over 120/80 mmHg but less than 139/89Hg, it is on the normal to high range. Based on your circumstances, your normal blood pressure level will also differ and will be determined best by your attending physician.
If you have risk factors for hypertension, you should take action to reduce your risk for the complications that accompany this condition. Ideally, you have to monitor your blood pressure regularly to catch high blood pressure early and prevent complications. Your doctor can recommend a blood pressure cuff that you can use to read your BP at home.
Make sure to log your readings and show it to your doctor during appointments. This will likewise help your physician monitor potential problems before your condition worsens.
Some steps that you can take to maintain a normal and healthy blood pressure level include:
Adding healthy foods to your daily diet - maintaining optimal blood pressure level involves lifestyle changes such as eating more heart-healthy foods. Thus, work your way to have more servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Gradually add one more serving of these foods to your day every week until you arrive at ten servings per day.
Adjust your Average Dinner Plate
Instead of getting your usual heapings for dinner, create dishes that use meat as a condiment instead of the main meal. For instance, go for a more significant portion of salad and a smaller piece of steak instead of the other way around.
Cut Down Sugar Intake
Ideally, start reducing the intake of sugar-sweetened foods. It includes flavored sodas, yogurts, and cereals. Read labels when buying packaged foods as they tend to hide unnecessary sugars.
Have Weight Loss Goals
If you have a high risk of getting high blood pressure, it will also help to set a weight loss goal and discuss with your physician what is the healthy weight for you. For people on the heavy side, it is recommended to lose one or two pounds per week. It means that you have to start eating 500 less calories from what you eat per day. Likewise, you have to find a physical activity that can help you with your weight loss goals. Choose a schedule that you can be comfortable with and add more if you can.
The Risks of Having High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is often a silent condition. Not many people realize that they are affected until the symptoms are apparent. When this happens, the damage to the body and complications might already be severe, or worse, fatal. Some common risks that come with hypertension are:
Damage to the Arteries
When you have healthy blood pressure, your arteries remain strong and flexible. Blood flows unobstructed and freely through healthy vessels and arteries. But when you have hypertension, the arteries become tighter, less elastic, and tougher. Dietary fats are quickly deposited in the arteries as they become damaged, and this will restrict blood flow. This can lead to elevated blood pressure, blockage, and stroke or heart attack.
Damage to the Heart
People with high blood pressure have hearts that works a little too hard. With the increased pressure of the blood vessels, the heart muscles are also forced to pump more frequently with more force than a healthy heart. Because of this, people with hypertension are also at risk of having an enlarged heart and become prone to conditions like:
- Heart Failure
- Heart Attack
- Sudden Cardiac Death
Damage to the Brain
The human brain relies on a healthy supply of blood that is rich in oxygen. With high blood pressure, the brain's ability to work is hindered due to the reduction of the supply of blood.
Major blockage to the blood flow can cause brain cells to die, and this is known as “Stroke.” Likewise, temporary blockage in the blood flow to the brain is known as transient ischemic attacks.
When your blood pressure is uncontrolled, your memory and ability to learn, speak, remember things, and reasoning is also affected. Even when hypertension is treated, the effects might no longer be reversed or erased.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Hypertension has no early symptoms; thus, it is harder to detect than other types of diseases. It is best caught in the early stages before it causes damage to other organs of the body.
If left undetected and untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart diseases such as heart attack and congestive heart failure, stroke, and kidney problems. Thus, a regular physical examination is essential to keep track of your blood pressure and ensure that it is within the normal range.
If you have hypertension in your family or if you are gaining weight, you have to check your blood pressure level regularly. Likewise, if you are being treated for the condition, you can raise your issues each time you visit your physician. On the other hand, there could be situations that warrant a call to your doctor. These instances include:
- If the treatment your doctor gave you is not working and your blood pressure level is still high.
- You are having other symptoms like lightheadedness, palpitations, confusion, fatigue, and shortness of breath. They may be severe and require immediate medical attention.
Thus, if you have concerns about your blood pressure condition, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.