High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is incredibly common, affecting up to one in every three adults. It is often considered a “silent” condition because of the fact that the body’s organs are capable of resisting the effects of increased blood pressure for a long time.
As a result, there are not always warning symptoms associated with the condition. However, it is a very serious problem which, left untreated, can lead to increased risk for coronary heart disease, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke.
Blood pressure is the pressure created against artery walls as blood is pumped around your body by the heart. High blood pressure occurs when your blood pressure continues to be abnormally high. If you suffer from hypertension over a long period of time, it can cause damage to the heart and kidneys and other body organs including the brain. It is not the high blood pressure in and of itself that is lethal; but rather the effect, long term, of that pressure on blood vessels.
Regular monitoring of your blood pressure is recommended and can be vitally important, as it might rise without you knowing. Your blood pressure will increase naturally when exercising or in times of stress, but if it stays elevated for a long period of time , it can be a cause for concern.
Understanding the numbers can help you to comprehend the problem. Your blood pressure is measured with two numbers called “systolic” and “diastolic” blood pressure. Systolic is a measure of the pressure exerted on the artery walls as the heart expands, pumping the blood. Diastolic is the measure of blood pressure on the artery walls as the heart contracts between beats. These two numbers are usually reported as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure measured in millimeters of mercury, and are written in units of mmHg.
Your blood pressure should be within a healthy range of approximately 120/80 mmHg for adults. Sometimes it is important to take the measurement more than once, or monitor the measurement over a few consecutive days or weeks to get a proper reading. For many people the mere sight of the blood pressure monitor (or your doctor) can send your blood pressure skyrocketing.
If your blood pressure stays outside of the normal range the majority of the time, you are at risk of pre-hypertension or hypertension. Pre-hypertension means that you are at an increased risk of developing hypertension and should take action to reduce your risk. If your systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers are not in the matching class of risk, you are assigned to the more serious category.
What are physical symptoms of high blood pressure? Here’s a quick list:
- vision problems
But remember, hypertension can often occur without any initial warning symptoms.
What causes high blood pressure?
Blood pressure increases with age, and high blood pressure is more common in people over the age of 35. A healthy lifestyle helps to delay or prevent this from occurring in some people. You are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure if you are older or obese. Some bad habits including heavy alcohol consumption and smoking cigarettes increase your risk. Some medications may increase your risk including the birth control pill, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, nasal drops and sprays and some cough medicines.
To some degree, high blood pressure may be inherited and you might be at an increased risk if there is a strong family history of hypertension, but this isn’t necessarily always the case and will depend on your lifestyle as well as your overall health. Diabetes, gout and kidney disease also pre-dispose you to a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, so it is a good idea to monitor your pressure regularly if you suffer from these conditions.
If you are generally healthy, eat a balanced diet, and are within your normal weight range, you’re doing the right things to protect yourself from the risk of hypertension. Regular checkups with your physician and periodic monitoring can help alert you to any potential high blood pressure signs and symptoms.