Blood pressure is the force of blood against the artery walls as it travels away from the heart. This is measured by two different numbers: systolic and diastolic. When the heart takes a beat it is contracting and produces the top number which is systolic. When the heart relaxes it produces the bottom number, the diastolic. Blood pressure levels naturally rise and fall throughout the day depending on what an individual is doing such as being in pain, exercising, or resting.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. This is when the blood against the artery walls produces an extra force that is for a prolonged period. This leads to stress against the blood vessel walls and can lead to potentially serious health problems such as heart disease or stroke. Hypertension is more prevalent in males and in non-Hispanic black adults. While it is easy to diagnose and detect, the symptoms of hypertension may not be as recognizable.
Signs and Symptoms
Hypertension is referred to as the “silent killer” due to the fact that most individuals do not experience symptoms. However, if they do, they are not always specific to high blood pressure. Typically, when symptoms are experienced, this is an indication that high blood pressure at this point has become a potentially life-threatening situation. Some individuals may not experience symptoms even when levels are dangerously high.
Some symptoms that are inconclusive may be signs of hypertension:
- Nose bleeds
- Blood spots in the eyes
- Facial flushing
- Irregular heart rate
- Vision changes
- Shortness of breath
Causes and Risk Factors
There are two types of hypertension. The first is primary (essential) hypertension and the cause is unknown, however this tends to develop over several years. The second is secondary hypertension and is preceded by an underlying condition and tends to develop rather quickly. Causes of secondary hypertension include obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), thyroid issues, kidney disease, tumors of the adrenal glands, congenital (born with) defects, illegal substances like cocaine, and certain medication such as birth control or some pain relievers.
Those at risk of hypertension include:
- Age: the older you become, the greater the risk
- Family history: genetics do play a factor
- Overweight/obesity: the more someone weighs the more blood is needed to deliver more oxygen to the tissue adding stress to the heart and arteries thus causing more pressure
- Race: it is more common in non-Hispanic black men
- Inactivity: those who do not exercise tend to have higher heart rates which means the heart has to work harder which adds additional pressure to the blood vessels
- Not enough potassium and too much sodium: potassium and sodium balance each other out. Salt causes you to retain fluid which increases blood pressure and if there isn’t enough potassium it cannot help balance out the sodium
- Tobacco use: tobacco damages the artery walls making them less effective which means the heart has to work harder which increases the pressure
- Stress: having habits related to stress such as tobacco use, drinking alcohol, eating more can lead to high blood pressure
How to Treat
Normal blood pressure is measured to be around 120/60 mm Hg. However, hypertension is categorized into two stages. Stage 1 is when the blood pressure is between 130 to 139 mm Hg systolic and 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic. Stage 2 is when systolic is between 140 to 149 mm Hg and diastolic is between 90 to 99 mm Hg. If someone’s blood pressure reads 180/120 mm Hg this is considered a hypertensive crisis and is a life-threatening emergency.
Treating hypertension starts off with a lifestyle changes of consuming less salt, increasing your physical activity, losing weight if overweight or obese, and cutting back on alcohol consumption.
At times, your doctor may prescribe you some medication to assist in lowering your blood pressure. These include diuretic (water pills), angiotensin-converting (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), and calcium channel blockers. Additional medications are available as a second line of defense if the previous do not help aid you in reaching your blood pressure goal. It is important to continue to follow through with your physician to make sure your blood pressure stabilizes.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure being too high or you have additional questions related to this post please visit Care Medical Group at www.caremg.com or call us at (360) 734-4300 to book your appointment today. We look forward to meeting with and assisting you with your healthcare needs.