One of the leading causes of death all over the world is high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, you could suffer from a stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and heart failure. High blood pressure is also one of the leading causes of dementia and sexual dysfunction. These problems can be avoided if you know how to treat and control your blood pressure.
A normal blood pressure level is one that allows the blood to be able to flow freely and deliver food and oxygen to the various parts of the body. Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. An example is 124/84 mm Hg. The first number is known as systolic blood pressure while the second number is the diastolic blood pressure.
The systolic blood pressure is the highest blood pressure measurement and it’s recorded through the contraction of your heart. On the other hand, diastolic blood pressure is your lowest blood pressure and it’s recorded once your heart is relaxed and is filled with blood. The higher your diastolic or systolic pressure and the longer that the figure stays high, the more damage it will cause to your blood vessels. Heart attacks and strokes are often due to a damaged blood vessel.
What Does this Mean?
Everyone wants to have a healthy blood pressure, but not everyone is aware of what these numbers actually mean.
If the numbers are bigger than the ideal range of blood pressure, then that could mean that your heart is working very hard to pump blood towards the rest of your body.
What’s a Normal Reading?
For your blood pressure to be considered normal, it needs to show a reading where the top number is between 90 and 120 while the bottom number should be between 60 and 80. According to the American Heart Association, the blood pressure is in a normal range if both your diastolic and systolic numbers are within the ranges mentioned.
The blood pressure reading is expressed in mm of mercury and is abbreviated as mm Hg. A normal reading is anything below 120/80 mm Hg and above 90/60 mm Hg among adults.
If your blood pressure is within the normal range, you don’t need any medical intervention. Nevertheless, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight and live a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent hypertension. Doing regular exercise and eating healthy can help a lot. You must also be extra careful with your lifestyle if hypertension is common among family members.
Elevated Blood Pressure
Numbers that are higher than 120/80 mm Hg are already considered an indication that you need to maintain heart-healthy habits.
If your systolic pressure is somewhere between 120 and 129 mm Hg, while your diastolic pressure is less than 80 mm Hg, then that means your blood pressure is elevated. Although the numbers are not technically high blood pressure, you are already outside of the normal range. Elevated blood pressure could eventually develop to high blood pressure and this could put you at high risk of developing stroke and heart diseases.
There are no medications required for those with elevated blood pressure, however, this is the time when you should start living a healthier lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise is important in lowering the level of your blood pressure to a healthy range and can help you prevent blood pressure from developing into full-fledged hypertension.
Hypertension Stage 1
You will be diagnosed with high blood pressure if your systolic blood pressure is between 130 mm Hg and 139 mm Hg, or if the diastolic blood pressure is at 80 mm Hg and 89 mm Hg. This is already considered as stage one hypertension.
Yet, the AHA says that if you get high blood pressure in only one reading, you may not really have hypertension. What really determines the diagnosis of hypertension is the average of your blood pressure readings over a certain period of time.
Your physician should be able to take and keep track of your blood pressure and will confirm if it’s already too high. If it is, then you may be asked to start taking medications, especially if your blood pressure hasn’t improved after a month of living a healthy lifestyle. This is especially important if you’re at high risk of developing a heart disease.
If you are 65 years old and above, your doctor will most likely recommend you undergo treatment and do some lifestyle changes if your systolic blood pressure is higher than 120 mm Hg. The treatment for those who are 65 and above and have significant health problems is usually done on a case-to-case basis. Treating hypertension in older adults appears to minimize dementia and memory problems.
Hypertension Stage 2
Stage 2-hypertension indicates a more serious problem. If your BP reading is showing 140 or more on top and more than 90 below, then this is already classified as stage 2-hypertension. When you’re at this stage, your physician will recommend you take medications that can help you keep your blood pressure under control. However, you should not rely solely on medications when treating hypertension. You must seriously change your lifestyle habits, as this is very important at this stage.
Some of the medications that you should take include:
- ACE inhibitors so you can block substances that tighten blood vessels.
- Alpha-blockers to relax the arteries.
- Beta-blockers to lower heart rate and prevent certain substances that are responsible for tightening the blood vessels.
- Calcium channel blocks to help relax blood vessels and decrease the workload of the heart.
- Diuretics to decrease the fluids in the body, which includes the blood vessels.
Blood pressure reading that’s above 180/120 mm Hg is an indication of a more serious health problem. The American Heart Association refers to this kind of measurement as “hypertensive crisis.” The blood pressure in this range will require immediate treatment even if there are no accompanying symptoms.
If your blood pressure has reached this range, it’s necessary that you seek emergency treatment, especially if it comes with the following symptoms:
- Blood in your urine
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Visual changes
- Symptoms of stroke, including paralysis or loss of muscle control
There are times, however, that a high reading occurs temporarily and your numbers will be back to normal. When your blood pressure is at this level, your doctor may require a second reading after a few minutes. And if the second reading is still high, then you need to undergo treatment as soon as possible or depending on whether or not you have the symptoms mentioned above.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are two main types of hypertension and each has different causes.
Also known as essential hypertension, primary hypertension is a type of hypertension that develops over time without any identifiable cause. A lot of people have this kind of hypertension.
Researchers are still not sure what makes the blood pressure increase slowly, but a combination of factors may come into play, including the following:
- Genes. There are people who are predisposed to hypertension because of their genes. This could be as a result of gene abnormalities or gene mutation that you may have inherited from your parents.
- Physical Changes. If a particular part of your body changes, you might start to experience issues all throughout your body and high blood pressure could be one of those. For instance, changes in the functioning of your kidney as a result of aging could upset your body’s natural balance of fluid and salt. This change could trigger your blood pressure to go up.
- Environment. Eventually, unhealthy lifestyle such as lack of physical activity and bad diet could take a toll on your body. If you live an unhealthy lifestyle, this could possibly make you gain weight and could increase your chances of developing hypertension.
Secondary hypertension is another type of hypertension and this occurs quickly and could get even more severe than primary hypertension.
Some of the conditions that could trigger secondary hypertension are:
- Adrenal gland problems
- Alcohol abuse and chronic use of alcohol
- Certain endocrine tumors
- Congenital heart defects
- Kidney disease
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Problems with your thyroids
- Side effects of medications
- Use of illegal drugs
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure
Diagnosing hypertension simply requires taking a blood pressure reading. Most clinics and doctor’s offices could check your blood pressure as part of your routine visit. If you’ll not get a blood pressure reading on your next appointment, you should request one.
If your blood pressure has elevated, then your doctor might ask you to undergo more readings over the next few days or weeks. Hypertension diagnosis is rarely given after just one reading. Your physician might need to see more evidence of a sustained problem. This is because your surroundings or environment can also play a part in the increase in your blood pressure. For instance, if you are stressed, this could also elevate your blood pressure level.
If your blood pressure stays high for longer, your doctor will most likely conduct further tests to rule out any underlying conditions.
The test may include the following:
- Cholesterol screening and other blood tests
- A test of your heart’s electrical activity using an electrocardiogram
- An ultrasound of your kidneys or heart
- Urine tests
All these tests are necessary for your doctor to identify any issues that have triggered an increase in your blood pressure. They will also look into the effects of your hypertension to the other organs of your body.
At this time, your doctor will start to treat your hypertension. Early treatment can greatly help to minimize the risks of a lasting damage.
High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
In specific cases, high blood pressure could occur during pregnancy. There are many different types of blood pressure disorders that take place during pregnancy and these are often due to a number of factors, including the following:
- Carrying more than one child.
- Chronic high blood pressure.
- First-time pregnancy
- IVF and other pregnancy-related assistance
- Kidney disease
If hypertension occurs at pregnancy on the 20th week, this condition could develop to preeclampsia. Severe preeclampsia could trigger damages to the brain and some of your body organs and could lead to life-threatening seizures called “eclampsia.”
The signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include intense headaches, protein in urine samples, as well as vision changes. Other symptoms include excessive swelling of feet and hands and abdominal pain.
High blood pressure at pregnancy can also lead to the early detachment of placenta or premature birth. This might result in cesarean delivery.
In some cases, the blood pressure could go back to normal right after giving birth.
Low Blood Pressure
A low blood pressure is known as hypotension. In adults, a blood pressure reading at 90/60 mm Hg or below that is already considered hypotension. This is dangerous because a blood pressure that’s extremely low means your heart is not supplied with enough oxygenated blood.
Below are some of the possible causes of hypotension:
- Blood loss
- Certain medications
- Endocrine problems
- Heart problems
- Severe infection
Hypotension is often accompanied by certain symptoms such as dizziness and lightheadedness. Make sure to discuss with your doctor about the possible causes of your low blood pressure and find out what you can do to bring it back to normal.
High Blood Pressure Treatment Options
Several factors can help your doctor in figuring out the best treatment for your hypertension. These factors include the type of hypertension you have and the causes behind it.
Primary Hypertension Treatment Options
If your physician has diagnosed you to be having primary hypertension, you will be asked to undergo lifestyle changes in order to help in managing your level of blood pressure. But sometimes, lifestyle changes alone won’t be enough. Your doctor may also prescribe you with certain medications.
Secondary Hypertension Treatment Options
If your doctor has discovered other underlying issues that have triggered the increase in your blood pressure, then the treatment will focus on such condition. For instance, if a particular medicine is what’s causing the increase of your blood pressure, then your doctor may ask you to stop using it and will ask you to take another medication that will not trigger an increase of your blood pressure.
There are times that hypertension could become persistent despite treatment. If this is the case, then your doctor will work with you to develop lifestyle changes and will prescribe medications that can help you reduce your blood pressure level.
Treatment plants for high blood pressure often evolve. What may work at first could become less effective as time goes by. This is why your doctor will need to monitor you in order to customize your treatment according to your needs.
Medication for High Blood Pressure
Many people go through the trial and error phase when taking medications for hypertension. You are free to try different medicines until you find something works best for you.
Below are some of the medications that are commonly used to treat hypertension:
- Beta-Blockers. This medication works by making your heart beat normally and with minimal force, thus, helping you minimize the amount of blood that gets pumped into your arteries in every beat. It also helps lower your blood pressure down and blocks certain hormones that could trigger the increase in your blood pressure.
- Diuretics. High amounts of sodium and excess fluid in your body can also lead to an increase in blood pressure. Diuretics, also known as water pills, can help your kidneys remove excess sodium in your body. When the sodium leaves your body, the extra fluid in your bloodstream will move towards your urine and this could help you lower the level of your blood pressure.
- ACE Inhibitors. Angiotensin is a type of chemical that could tighten the blood vessels and artery walls. ACE refers to the angiotensin-converting enzyme and this helps to prevent the body from producing plenty of this chemical. As a result, your blood vessels will be relaxed and your blood pressure will go down.
- Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers. While the main purpose of the ACE inhibitors is to stop the production of angiotensin, the ARBs work by blocking the angiotensin from binding to the receptors. Without this chemical, the blood vessels will not be tightened. As a result, the blood vessels will be relaxed and your blood pressure will go down.
- Calcium Channel Blockers. These medications can help you block some calcium from getting into your heart’s cardiac muscles. This will lead to less forceful heartbeats, which also lowers down your blood pressure. These medications can also work well in the blood vessels, making them relax and lower your blood pressure even more.
- Alpha-2 Agonists. This kind of medication changes the nerve impulses that could tighten the blood vessels. As a result, the blood vessels will be relaxed, and the blood pressure will be reduced.
10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you may have started taking medications to bring the numbers down.
Lifestyle changes play an important part in treating your hypertension. If you’re able to successfully control your blood pressure through lifestyle changes then you could minimize or totally avoid the need to take medication.
Below are some of the lifestyle changes that you can do to help keep your blood pressure down:
Lose Extra Pounds and Watch Your Waistline
Blood pressure tends to increase as your weight increases. If you’re obese or overweight, your breathing will be disrupted during your sleep and this could further increase your blood pressure level.
Weight loss is one of the best ways to control your blood pressure level. Losing weight if you’re obese or overweight can greatly help to lower down your blood pressure. According to medical experts, you could lose about 1 mm of mm Hg for every kilogram of weight that you lose.
Aside from shedding those excess pounds off, you must also keep an eye on your waistline. Having too much weight around the waist area could put you at high risk of developing hypertension.
- Men are at high risk of hypertension if their waist is more than 40 inches.
- Women are at high risk of hypertension if their waist is more than 35 inches.
These figures vary a lot so it’s best to discuss with your doctor about healthy waist measurement.
Performing regular exercises for at least 150 minutes each week or 30 minutes every day could lower your chances of developing blood pressure to about 8 mm Hg. You have to be consistent with your exercises, because once your stop, there’s a possibility that your blood pressure may increase again.
If you already have an elevated blood pressure, regular exercises could help to prevent the development of hypertension. For those who already have hypertension, doing exercises regularly could help to bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
Aerobic exercises could help to lower your blood pressure down. This includes jogging, walking, swimming, dancing, or cycling. You can also perform high-intensity training. Strength training can also help to lower down blood pressure. Try to include strength-training exercises for at least two days in a week. Consult with your doctor about starting an exercise-training program to help lower your blood pressure.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products can help to lower your blood pressure up to 11 mm Hg if you’ve high blood pressure. This eating plan is called the DASH diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
It’s definitely not easy to change your eating habits.
However, here are some tips to help you easily adopt a healthy diet:
- Keep a food diary. Jotting down the food you eat in a diary can help you a lot. So get a diary and use it to monitor the foods that you eat, the amount etc.
- Increase your potassium intake. Potassium can help you lower down the effects of sodium in your blood pressure so eat plenty of it if you can. Some of the best sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables.
- Be smart with your food choices. Always take time to read food labels when you shop at grocery stores. When dining out, try to stick with your healthy-eating plan.
Reduce Sodium in Your Diet
Even a small reduction in the amount of sodium in your diet can already improve your heart health and lower down your blood pressure to 6 mm Hg.
The effect of sodium on blood pressure will greatly vary among groups of people. Generally, it’s ideal to limit your sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day or less.
Here are more tips to reduce your sodium intake:
- Read food labels. If possible, always opt for low-sodium alternatives of the foods and drinks that you would normally buy.
- Don’t add salt. Just one teaspoon of salt already contains 2,300 mg of salt. So try to avoid salt if possible. Instead, use spices and herbs to make your food more flavorful.
- Ease into it. If you find it hard to drastically reduce your sodium intake, gradually cut it off your diet. Your palate should eventually adjust to it over time.
Alcohol is both good and bad for your health. If you drink alcohol in moderation, you could potentially lower your blood pressure. However, the protective effect will be lost once you drink too much of it.
Drinking more than the moderate amount of alcohol could increase your blood pressure levels by several points, and it could also reduce the effectiveness of your medications.
Remember that every cigarette that you smoke could increase your chances of developing high blood pressure. Quitting smoking can help put your blood pressure back to the normal level. Furthermore, it can also minimize your risks of developing heart diseases and it could improve your overall health as well. In fact, studies show that those who quit smoking have the tendency to live longer than those who never quit.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Caffeine’s effect on the blood pressure level is still widely debated. According to some studies, caffeine can help increase the level of blood pressure to 10 mm Hg for those who rarely consume it. But for those who drink coffee on a regular basis, it will have little to no effect on their blood pressure.
The long-term effect of caffeine on the blood pressure is still not clear, but it may be possible that caffeine could slightly increase your blood pressure.
Chronic stress can also lead to high blood pressure although more studies are needed in order to determine the effect of chronic stress on hypertension. Occasional stress can also trigger an increase in blood pressure, especially if you react to stress by eating a lot of unhealthy foods and by turning to alcohol and smoking.
Here are some ways on how you can deal with stress in the healthiest way possible:
- Change your expectations. Try to plan your day ahead and learn to prioritize things. Learn to say no and understand that there are certain things that you can’t control or change, but you can always change the way you react to these things.
- Focus more on issues you can control. If you’re having some issues at work, then talk to your manager about it. If you’re having conflicts with a family member, then take the necessary steps to resolve the conflict.
- Avoid stress triggers. Avoid doing things that could trigger or aggravate your stress. For instance, if rush-hour traffic on your way to work stresses you out, then leave earlier to avoid traffic. If there are toxic people in your life that cause you to stress, try to avoid them.
- Do things you enjoy. If things are getting hard, take a break and relax. Think of things that you enjoy doing, perhaps, taking a long walk, volunteering or cooking.
- Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude for everything can somehow help reduce your stress.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Home monitoring is important in keeping your blood pressure level in check. This way, you’ll know if your lifestyle changes are working and if you need to alert your doctor if your blood pressure continues to increase. Blood pressure monitors for home use are available at your local drug store.
Visiting your doctor regularly is also the key to managing your blood pressure well. If your blood pressure is in control, talk to your doctor and find out how often you should check it.
You cannot do it alone – you need the people around you to support you in your quest to improve your health. Your family or friends can help you out by encouraging you to take care of yourself, see your doctor, and start an exercise program.
You may also consider joining a support group that could put you in touch with people who can provide you with an emotional boost and offer tips on how you can deal with hypertension.
Maintaining a normal range for your blood pressure is extremely necessary. It helps to prevent further complications such as stroke and heart disease. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking proper medications can help you lower your high blood pressure. If you’re overweight, then take the necessary steps to lose weight.
Keep in mind that a single reading of your blood pressure is not enough to diagnose anything. Average blood pressure readings taken over time are often the most accurate. This is why it’s important that you have your blood pressure checked by a healthcare professional at least once a year. You may need frequent checks if your blood pressure readings are always high.