You’ve likely heard of the term high blood pressure. You may have also heard of it referred to as hypertension. The use of the phrase “my blood pressure is high” is commonly done in jest but it is a serious condition.
If your doctor diagnoses you with high blood pressure, you will need to take steps to reduce it. In some cases, this will be through medication, but it can also be through your diet and exercise.
Before you jump into anything or start worrying, you need to know as much as possible. Whether you’re just concerned about high blood pressure or you’ve been diagnosed, this is everything you need to know about high blood pressure and what to do.
Quick Facts About High Blood Pressure
Let’s start with a few quick facts about high blood pressure. After that, we can get into the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, etc.
The first thing to remember is that high blood pressure is an extremely common condition. It is a medical condition and it affects around a fifth of the population. Once you reach the age of 55, there’s a 40% chance that you’ll develop it and a 90% chance within the next 20-30 years after that. There are also possibilities that you will get it during pregnancy, although this can rectify itself after giving birth.
Hypertension is often called a silent killer. In most of cases, people don’t get any symptoms. In fact, almost 20% of people who likely have it won’t even have a diagnosis. They simply have no signs to encourage them to see a doctor. However, high blood pressure can cause problems with the blood flow and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.
There are many reasons to suffer from high blood pressure. They include stress, salt intake, and poor lifestyle choices. We’ll get into this later in this article.
You want to make sure you get your condition treated. It’s one of those that will just get worse if you don’t act to help lower your blood pressure. This can mean taking a medication in some cases. There are times that taking more than one type of blood pressure medication is necessary and other cases where you can manage it all through your diet and exercise.
Just because a type of medication works for a friend doesn’t mean it will work for you. Like there were various factors that affect you developing high blood pressure, there are various factors that affect the abilities and successes of medications. Therefore, there are so many options available.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
You should get a blood pressure reading on a yearly basis with your doctor. This will help to look out for rising numbers to help get an early diagnosis. It’s much easier to treat high blood pressure on the lower end of the scale and it’s also safer for your medical health.
It causes the artery walls to become damaged, which causes friction within the vessels. Your blood can’t flow as well as it used to. You can develop coronary artery disease because of the condition. This then leads to the risk of stroke or a heart attack. Scarily, because of the lack of symptoms of high blood pressure, the heart attack or stroke may be the first sign that you have the problem.
In some cases, your heart muscle is damaged. It becomes too weak to work properly, leading to heart failure.
The blood pressure reading should be lower than 140/90 mmHg if measured at the doctor’s office. If you’re measuring at home, aim for a slightly lower figure of 135/85 mmHg. Your device won’t be calibrated as often or as accurately as the one in the doctor’s office, so it’s best to be on the safer side. If you have kidney disease, diabetes, or other conditions, you’ll want to see a reading for 130/80 mmHg when in the doctor’s office.
A diagnosis won’t happen right away, depending on the levels. Our blood pressure increases during the day for a variety of reasons. For example, stress at work can temporarily increase the levels. Say you had trouble getting parked at your doctor’s office and then the elevator was broken down, so you had to walk up five flights of stairs; your blood pressure may be initially high. Your doctor will want to see you on five occasions to determine if your condition is temporary or a serious concern when around the 140/90 mmHg mark.
If your blood pressure reading is 160/100 mmHg, then your doctor will only need to see you on three occasions. Your doctor only needs two visits in a short period of time if your blood pressure reads 180/110 mmHg.
Those who have readings of 200/120 mmHg will get a diagnosis on the spot. This is a serious concern for doctors, as it means you have extremely high blood pressure.
Don’t start stressing about potential hypertension. This can just make it worse. You want to get a diagnosis and discuss your options to get the blood pressure down with your doctor.
What Causes Your Hypertension?
There are several factors involved in your health. Hypertension isn’t usually caused by just one thing. Most of the time there are multiple factors at play that lead to the blood pressure increasing.
Often, people with a healthy lifestyle don’t have blood pressure problems. This includes people who eat healthily, keep a healthy weight, and exercise regularly. The number of people with the medical condition is on the rise partially due to processed foods and the sedentary lifestyles.
Salt plays a part in the increased blood pressure. In fact, experts believe that 30% of those diagnosed with hypertension have high salt levels in their diet. Just reducing the amount that you have daily can help to keep the risks to a minimum. Therefore, the DASH diet is highly recommended for those with high blood pressure. It focuses on keeping sodium levels down.
A lack of exercise and overall poor diet are also to blame. Those who drink too much alcohol can see a rise in their blood pressure, due to the work their kidney’s need to do. Their liver is affected and there are other major health problems linked to alcohol consumption.
Of course, those who smoke are also more at risk of developing high blood pressure. This is linked to the buildup of tar and the damage to your cardiovascular system. If you smoke and you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, you want to quit smoking right away.
There are some reasons for high blood pressure that you’ll have no control over. One of those is a family history of the condition. It’s one of those medical conditions that does have a genetic link. Your pregnancy can also be considered high risk and cause high blood pressure. This can be dangerous for you and your baby. If your doctor thinks the pregnancy is an extremely high risk, they will consider actions you can take to protect the life of yourself and your unborn child; usually, bed rest.
The medication you take can also cause problems for your blood pressure. Some of the more common over the counter medications such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and cold medicines can lead to the blood pressure rising. Look out for anything with pseudoephedrine and talk to your doctor if you consider taking them, especially if you already have higher than normal blood pressure levels.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
While you won’t necessarily have symptoms, there are some that you can overlook. This is because many are linked to other health conditions. You may just think you’re stressed or tired from work! It’s important to look out for these symptoms, especially if you do have a family history of hypertension.
- Severe headaches
- Mental confusion
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest pains
- Pounding in the ears, neck, or chest
- Blood in the urine
- Irregular heartbeat
These are among the symptoms of the more serious issues linked to high blood pressure.
Treatments for Your Blood Pressure
There are numerous ways to treat your high blood pressure condition. While lifestyle and diet changes are necessary, your doctor will likely consider medication. Your age and health will affect the type of medications you get.
Beta-blockers and diuretics tend to be common for those under 60. They are less invasive and can help to manage your sodium levels within the body. However, you may also be prescribed angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers, or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors).
All the drugs tend to work on the same level. It’s the costs and side effects that are different. If you’re worried about the costs, you’ll want to discuss your best option with your doctor.
Those with kidney disease, diabetes, and some other medical conditions will usually be prescribed an ARB or ACE inhibitor initially. Those with heart disease will usually be prescribed both an ACE inhibitor and beta-blocker.
Many people end up taking two types of medications to get their blood pressure down to a manageable and healthy level. This can depend on your medical health though. If you’re already managing a health condition, starting with two medications at the same time is considered good. Those who are healthy will likely only be prescribed one type of medication. If this doesn’t work, they can then be prescribed another medication alongside the first.
Your doctor will want you to take the medications for six weeks before testing your levels again. This is how long it takes for the medications to take a full effect. However, if you have serious side effects, you will be able to see your doctor again. Report all side effects to your doctor, especially the more serious ones.
As each medication is different, you’ll need to read the pamphlets that come with the medications. This will help you get a list of the exact side effects to look out for. When you take two medications they may have contradicting side effects, which can help to balance them out. However, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for either one of those side effects, as one may be stronger than the other.
You may need to take the medication for the rest of your life. This is something your doctor will work with you on. There may be natural ways to lower your blood pressure enough to help reduce the number of medications you need to take.
While taking the medications, you’ll also want to follow a healthy diet. The DASH diet is one of the best options. One of the best things you can do is improve your physical activity daily. Aim to be physically active for at least 30 minutes daily. If you can get 60 minutes of activity into your day, that’s even better. You don’t need to join a gym or take up an activity you hate. Walking is better than nothing at all!
You’ll want to reduce your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day. One drink is just a regular-sized beer or a small glass of wine.
Meanwhile, focus on your weight. Those who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. You can reduce your risks of the condition considerably by losing 10lbs. Work on small increments like this until you get into a healthy weight range. Your doctor will work with BMI ranges, so you want to be between 18.5 and 24.9 on the BMI scale.
High Blood Pressure: The Takeaway
Just because millions of people in the world have blood pressure doesn’t mean it’s something that should be overlooked. This is a serious health condition if allowed to continue. It’s a silent killer and you may have it without even knowing. Your doctor will help you take steps to reduce your blood pressure, including through diet, lifestyle, and medication.