Have you met someone who was dealing with high blood pressure? Chances are you have considering 29% of American adults are battling against high blood pressure. That’s nearly 75 million Americans that are at risk for heart disease, stroke, and premature death. But, what exactly is high blood pressure and how can it increase your risk for these dangerous medical conditions?
First let’s begin with the definition of High Blood Pressure…
High blood pressure is a common condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.
Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
You can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues and can be detected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels.
Now that you know what High Blood Pressure is, do you know what the Risk Factors are?
- Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. Through early middle age, or about age 45, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
- Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure, also are more common in blacks.
- Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
- Being overweight or obese. The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases so does the pressure on your artery walls.
- Not being physically active. People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of being overweight.
- Using tobacco. Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. Secondhand smoke also can increase your blood pressure.
- Too much salt (sodium) in your diet. Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
- Too little potassium in your diet. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.
- Too little vitamin D in your diet. It’s uncertain if having too little vitamin D in your diet can lead to high blood pressure. Vitamin D may affect an enzyme produced by your kidneys that affect your blood pressure.
- Drinking too much alcohol. Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than two drinks a day for men and more than one drink a day for women may affect your blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
- Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you try to relax by eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol, you may only increase problems with high blood pressure.
- Certain chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, such as kidney disease and sleep apnea.
What do you do if you think you have High Blood Pressure?
You should see your doctor regularly where your blood pressure will be taken as part of your annual exam. If your results seem high your doctor may look back at your history or ask you to check your blood pressure at home or at a store with a free monitor. You want to make sure you are checking at different times of the day and not to ingest caffeine prior to testing as this may increase your blood pressure giving you inaccurate results.
Do you know what those numbers mean when taking your own Blood Pressure?
Blood Pressure readings are given in millimeters of mercury (mm HG), has two numbers. The first, or upper number, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats (systolic pressure). The second, or lower number, measures the pressure in your arteries between the beats (diastolic pressure).
Blood pressure measurements fall into four general categories:
Normal blood pressure.
Your blood pressure is normal if it’s below 120/80 mm Hg. However, some doctors recommend 115/75 mm Hg as a better goal. Once blood pressure rises above 115/75 mm Hg, the risk of cardiovascular disease begins to increase. Prehypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg. Prehypertension tends to get worse over time.
Stage 1 hypertension.
Stage 1 hypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 140 to 159 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 90 to 99 mm Hg.
Stage 2 hypertension.
More severe hypertension, stage 2 hypertension is a systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 100 mm Hg or higher.
What if you’re continually above the Normal Blood Pressure Range?
Call your doctor and be prepared to ask them questions about your situation. Bring a list of all medications including vitamins and supplements you are taking, as some of these may be the culprit. Discuss family history, extracurricular activities such as smoking and drinking habits, exercise routine or lack thereof, and overall general health and diet.
Your physician will better determine what course of action needs to be taken to reduce your blood pressure. Whether it is medication, change in diet and exercise, or simply more testing. Make sure you are ready to make those changes because uncontrolled High Blood Pressure can lead to:
Heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.
Aneurysm. Increased blood pressure can cause your blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening.
Heart failure. To pump blood against the higher pressure in your vessels, your heart muscle thickens. Eventually, the thickened muscle may have a hard time pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs, which can lead to heart failure.
Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys. This can prevent these organs from functioning normally.
Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes. This can result in vision loss.
Metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a cluster of disorders of your body’s metabolism, including increased waist circumference; high triglycerides; low high-density lipoprotein (HDL); or “good,” cholesterol; high blood pressure; and high insulin levels.
If you have high blood pressure, you’re more likely to have other components of metabolic syndrome. The more components you have, the greater your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke.
Trouble with memory or understanding. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may also affect your ability to think, remember and learn. Trouble with memory or understanding concepts is more common in people with high blood pressure.
What can you do to avoid High Blood Pressure?
If it is hereditary it may be hard to avoid but you should try and eat a healthy low sodium diet, find time in your busy day to exercise, reduce your stress level, and drink in moderation. It just may save your life one day.