Of the many health problems that a person can have, high blood pressure is one of the most common. It affects about 1 in 3 adults in the United States and is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. It is also the leading cause of chronic kidney disease, heart failure, cognitive impairment, and, unfortunately, early death if not treated.
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What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often called “the silent killer”, and for good reason. It is a condition that is usually asymptomatic until it causes significant damage, and it can go undetected for years.
This explains why many people are unaware they have high blood pressure until they develop one of the many health problems associated with the condition, such as heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke.
High blood pressure occurs when the pressure inside the blood vessels is higher than normal. This pressure is created by the heart and blood vessels working together. When the heart beats, it pumps blood through your arteries to deliver oxygen and nutrients to every cell in your body.
However, when the arteries are damaged, restricted or narrowed, this flow of blood is impeded, and the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood through your body. This causes a rise in blood pressure – the stronger the force of your heart’s contractions, the higher your blood pressure will be.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are many factors that can contribute to high blood pressure, and these include:
A Sedentary Lifestyle
It’s no secret that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure and a myriad of other health problems. In fact, studies show that one in two adults don’t get enough exercise, and this is a huge contributor to high blood pressure.
The foods you eat can affect your blood pressure. If you consume too much sodium, sugar, or saturated fat, this can cause your blood pressure to rise.
Some of the worst culprits are processed foods, which are usually high in fat, sodium, and sugar.
Stress can affect your health in many ways, including your blood pressure. It makes sense that if you’re constantly stressed out over work or other issues, it’ll put a strain on your cardiovascular system and cause an increase in blood pressure.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure. It’s important to note that there’s no such thing as a safe amount of alcohol when it comes to your health; even moderate drinking can cause problems for some people.
Among the many health problems smoking cigarettes can cause, high blood pressure is at the top of the list. The nicotine in cigarettes causes blood vessels to narrow, which increases pressure on the heart. The carbon monoxide in smoke reduces oxygen delivery, also increasing blood pressure.
Genetics can play a role in high blood pressure, but it’s not the only factor. If both parents have high blood pressure, you’re more likely to develop it as well. But even if neither of your parents has hypertension, you can still be at risk if you have certain genes that cause narrowing arteries or increased salt retention.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure and other health problems such as diabetes and cancer. Being overweight can cause the heart to have to work harder, which can lead to high blood pressure.
The extra weight can also put more strain on joints and organs, which can lead to health issues such as osteoarthritis, back pain, and sleep apnea.
Diabetes is another risk factor for high blood pressure. When a person has diabetes, their body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or is unable to use it effectively. This causes a buildup of sugar in the bloodstream, which can cause damage to the small blood vessels and increase their risk of getting high blood pressure.
As people get older, their risk of developing high blood pressure increases.
There are a few theories about why this happens:
- As we age, our arteries stiffen and narrow, which makes it harder for blood to flow through them. This can cause an increase in blood pressure.
- The kidneys also become less effective at removing waste products from the body as we age. As a result, more salt builds up in our bodies over time (salt plays a role in regulating blood pressure).
- Hormones that control blood pressure levels decrease with age, which can also contribute to an increase in blood pressure.
- Older people tend to be less active than younger adults, which can also increase the risk of high blood pressure.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
The symptoms of high blood pressure vary from person to person. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all, while others may have headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, muscle tremors, fatigue, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, or confusion, all of which are signs and symptoms of high blood pressure.
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?
Before we get to how high blood pressure is diagnosed, let’s take a quick look at how it’s measured.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which is also known as systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The first number, systolic blood pressure, represents the amount of force your heart pumps into your arteries when it contracts; the second number, diastolic blood pressure, represents the amount of force in your arteries after each heartbeat.
The average adult human has a systolic blood pressure is 120 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg. If your systolic or diastolic blood pressure is higher than those numbers, it means that you’re either at risk of developing high blood pressure or you already have it.
Now, if you’re wondering if you have high blood pressure, your doctor will check it in two different ways: They can take your blood pressure with a manual cuff and stethoscope, or they can use an automatic device called an oscillometric monitor.
Your doctor may also perform additional tests if it becomes evident that your blood pressure is high. These tests may include blood tests, urine tests, stress tests, and electrocardiogram tests. The aim of these tests is to help determine if you have any underlying health problems that could be contributing to your high blood pressure.
How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?
Eating healthier is another key to preventing high blood pressure. And eating healthy doesn’t mean depriving yourself of all your favourite foods. You just need to eat less of certain types of food, like processed fats and sugars. Processed fats include trans fats, saturated fats, and partially hydrogenated oils which are found in some margarines, commercial baked goods, and fried foods like French fries.
Aim to eat more foods that are low in sodium, like fruits and vegetables. Try to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. You can also reduce your salt intake by choosing lower-sodium foods whenever possible.
By maintaining a healthy diet, you can lower your blood pressure by up to 5mm Hg!
Exercising regularly can lower blood pressure by as much as 8 mm Hg. People with high blood pressure should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, such as brisk walking or slow cycling. Or do about 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise, like running or playing singles tennis.
Keep in mind that having an elevated heart rate doesn’t mean having high blood pressure. But for those who already have high blood pressure, exercising every day can help keep it from getting worse.
So if you have hypertension, remember, you don’t have to run marathons or work out for hours every day. Just make sure you get some form of physical activity every day. Your doctor might recommend that you do aerobic exercise, strength training or both. Please discuss with your physician before starting an exercise regimen.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can cause blood pressure to rise. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to lower your blood pressure. It can also help reduce your risk for heart disease, lung cancer, and other health problems. If you smoke, make a plan to quit. You can talk to your doctor about resources that can help you quit smoking.
If you drink alcohol, keep your intake moderate or to no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. Reducing alcohol intake can reduce blood pressure.
You may also want to avoid caffeine, which is found in many soft drinks and coffee-based beverages. Some research suggests that caffeine may slightly increase blood pressure in healthy people who don’t regularly drink coffee. If you already have high blood pressure, avoiding caffeine may help lower your blood pressure even more.
Try Relaxation Therapy
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, relaxation therapy may help you manage your blood pressure. Relaxation therapy can involve practising meditation or deep breathing exercises.
It also may include listening to soothing music or reading a book. Once you’re relaxed, try to stay that way by taking some time out of your day to do something that makes you feel good.
You’ll find that doing this regularly can help you manage your stress and lower your blood pressure. It can also help lower your risk of health issues linked to stress, such as depression and anxiety.
And you don’t need necessarily need to do meditation or breathing exercises to relax, it can be as simple as taking a walk in the park, cooking, or gardening.
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing hypertension significantly. The more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure will be.
So if you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can help reduce your risk of developing hypertension. You don’t need to lose a lot of weight even just 5-10% of your current body weight could make a difference in lowering your blood pressure.
You can start by cutting back on calories and exercising more. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans can also help you lose weight.
But if you’re not sure where to start, talk to your doctor about a weight loss plan that’s right for you. Our team specializes in obesity medicine and will be able to help you with your weight.This is important because many people have tried to lose weight without success. That’s why it’s important to find a plan that works for your lifestyle and eating habits.
If you have high blood pressure and want to try lowering it through medication, talk to your doctor. Some people are able to lower their blood pressure by taking a diuretic or ACE inhibitor. These drugs help reduce fluid volume in the body and relax blood vessels so that they can open up and allow more blood flow.
Other medications your doctor might recommend include beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.
It is important to use medications only as directed by your doctor. You can also ask your doctor if there are any foods or supplements you should avoid while taking these drugs.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Your doctor will likely ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home. You’ll need to purchase a blood pressure monitor, either an automatic or manual one and learn how to use it correctly.
You should take two readings per day: one in the morning and another in the evening before going to sleep, and record the readings. This will help your doctor monitor your blood pressure and catch any changes that could be indicative of a problem.
If you or someone you love has high blood pressure, it is important to take steps to lower it. There are many ways that this can be done, from lifestyle changes through exercise and diet modifications to medication.
If you have hypertension and want to try lowering it through medication, talk with your doctor about the best course of action for your specific situation.
It’s also important to have your blood pressure checked regularly, particularly if you’re over 45 or have other health conditions.