What is High Blood Pressure? How to Fight Hypertension

When doctors take readings of a person with high blood pressure (Hypertension), they measure the force that blood exerts on the walls of the arteries as it flows through them. And if blood pressure is too high for too long, it can cause serious damage to the blood vessels.

This damage can result in a range of complications, some of which can be life-threatening. But, there are many ways of managing it. And although Hypertension often does not cause symptoms, there are regular screening exercises. Especially, that can help a person know if they need to take preventive action.

High Blood Pressure

It’s important to realize that Hypertension is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and aneurysm. Therefore, keeping your blood pressure under control is vital for preserving health and reducing the risk of these dangerous conditions.

With this in mind, in this article, we look at the causes of Hypertension and how to treat it. We’ll also explain the Hypertension measurements that health authorities consider to be healthy and too high.

What is High Blood Pressure?

Another name for High Blood Pressure is Hypertension. And it’s a condition that can lead to severe health complications and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and sometimes death.

Basically, blood pressure is the force that a person’s blood exerts against the walls of their blood vessels. However, this pressure depends on the resistance of the blood vessels and how hard the heart has to work.

High Blood Pressure

The heart is a muscle that pumps blood around the body. As it travels, the blood delivers oxygen to the body’s vital organs. Not forgetting, your heart is a muscle about the size of your fist.

Your heart is made up of four chambers and contains four valves. The valves are open and close to let blood move through the chambers and into and out of your heart. Sometimes, a problem in the body makes it harder for the heart to pump the blood. This could happen, for example, if an artery becomes too narrow.

Persistent Hypertension can put a strain on the walls of the arteries. This can lead to a variety of health problems, some of which can be life-threatening.

There are two parts to a Hypertension measurement:
  1. Systolic pressure: This occurs when the heart contracts.
  2. Diastolic pressure: This occurs between heartbeats.

As an example, if it’s 120/80 mm Hg, it means that the systolic pressure is 120 mm Hg and the diastolic pressure is 80 mm Hg. You can read and learn more about what makes systolic and diastolic pressure.

Why is Blood Pressure important? 

By all means, normal blood pressure is vital to life. Without the pressure that forces our blood to flow around the circulatory system, no oxygen or nutrients would be delivered. Particularly, through our arteries to the tissues and organs. However, it can become dangerously high, and it can also get too low.

Simply, because it’s the force that moves blood through our circulatory system. So, it’s an important force because oxygen and nutrients would not be pushed around our circulatory system to nourish tissues and organs without blood pressure. It is also vital because it delivers white blood cells and antibodies for immunity, and hormones such as insulin.

What is Blood?

Eventually, Blood is essential to life. It circulates through our body and delivers essential substances like oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells. It also transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells. But, there is no substitute for blood, and neither can it be made nor manufactured.

Generous blood donors are the only source of blood for patients in need of a blood transfusion. And just as important as providing oxygen and nutrients, the fresh blood that gets delivered is able to pick up the toxic waste products of metabolism.

Including the carbon dioxide we exhale with every breath, and the toxins we clear through our liver and kidneys. Not to mention, Blood itself carries a number of other properties, including its temperature. It also carries one of our defenses against tissue damage, the clotting platelets that prevent blood loss following injury.

What are Hypertension Ranges

When you visit your doctor, the first thing they often do is check your levels. This is an important step because it’s a measure of how hard your heart’s working.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), your heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute. Or about 100,000 times per day. As it beats, blood is forced against your artery walls.

Your blood pressure may be normal, high, or low. Whereby, high blood pressure is also referred to as hypertension, and low blood pressure is called hypotension.

Different Hypertension ranges for adults are as follows:
  • Normal: less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic
  • Elevated: 120–129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic
  • Stage 1 hypertension: 130–139 systolic or 80–89 diastolic
  • Stage 2 hypertension: at least 140 systolic or at least 90 diastolic
  • Hypertensive crisis: higher than 180 systolic and/or higher than 120 diastolic
  • Hypotension: can be 90 or less systolic, or 60 or less diastolic, but these numbers can vary because symptoms help determine when blood pressure is too low.

Our blood circulation is similar to a highly sophisticated form of plumbing – blood has ‘flow’ and arteries are ‘pipes.’ A basic law of physics gives rise to our blood flow, and this law also applies in a garden hose pipe. Blood flows through our bodies because of a difference in pressure.

How Blood Pressure Functions

Our blood pressure is highest at the start of its journey from our heart – when it enters the aorta. And it’s lowest at the end of its journey along progressively smaller branches of arteries. That pressure difference is what causes blood to flow around our bodies.

Arteries affect it in a similar way to the physical properties of a garden hose pipe affecting water pressure. Constricting the pipe increases pressure at the point of constriction. Without the elastic nature of the artery walls, for example, the pressure of the blood would fall away more quickly as it is pumped from the heart.

While the heart creates the maximum pressure, the properties of the arteries are just as important to maintaining it and allowing blood to flow throughout the body. The condition of the arteries affects blood pressure and flow.

Eventually, the narrowing of the arteries can eventually block the supply altogether. Leading to dangerous conditions including stroke and heart attack.

What is a Blood Pressure Chart

By all means, this is a chart that shows measurements for high and normal pressure of the blood, according to the American Heart Association. Whereby, doctors often measure it in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

But, what exactly is it that causes blood to exert pressure in our arteries? Below is a chart that is going to guide us to answer this question. And part of the answer what exactly is it that causes blood to exert pressure in our arteries is pretty simple.

So, to enumerate, the heart creates pressure by forcing out blood when it contracts with every heartbeat. It, however, cannot be created solely by the pumping heart.

Blood Pressure Chart Systolic (mm Hg) Diastolic (mm Hg)
Normal Below 120 Below 80
Elevated (hypertension) 120–129 Below 80
Stage 1 hypertension 130–139 80–90
Stage 2 hypertension 140 or above 90 or above
Hypertensive crisis Over 180 Over 120

Your doctor may diagnose it to see if either your systolic or diastolic is high, or if both numbers are high.

They may diagnose low blood pressure by checking systolic and diastolic numbers. Along with evaluating your symptoms and age, and what medications you’re taking.

What is Systole Pressure

Your systolic blood pressure is the top number of your reading.

It measures the force of blood against your artery walls while your ventricles — the lower two chambers of your heart — squeeze, pushing blood out to the rest of your body.

What is Diastole Pressure

Your diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number of your reading.

It measures the force of blood against your artery walls as your heart relaxes and the ventricles are allowed to refill with blood.

Diastole — this period of time when your heart relaxes between beats — is also the time that your coronary artery is able to supply blood to your heart.

What Causes Hypertension?

Sometimes, there is no apparent cause. In this case, a doctor will diagnose primary hypertension.

In most cases, stress can have a severe impact on blood pressure, especially when it is chronic. It can occur as a result of both socioeconomic and psychosocial factors.

Consuming a high-fat diet, carrying excess weight, drinking a lot of alcohol, smoking tobacco, and the use of some medications also increase the risk.

High blood pressure can occur when certain changes happen in the body or if a person is born with specific genetic features that cause a health condition.

Hypertension can affect people with:
  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • lupus
  • scleroderma
  • underactive or overactive thyroid
  • congenital conditions, such as Cushing’s syndrome, acromegaly, or pheochromocytoma

As can be seen, healthy blood pressure is essential for maintaining bodily functions. But, both high blood pressure and low blood pressure need to be managed. Overall, it’s much more common to have high blood pressure.

In addition to what I mentioned earlier, according to the American College of Cardiology, almost half of the adults in the United States now fit the new definition of high blood pressure. Not surprisingly, the risk factors for these two conditions are very different.

Hypertension can have a severe impact on the:
  • Cardiovascular system: High blood pressure can cause the arteries to harden, increasing the risk of a blockage.
  • Heart: A blockage can reduce blood flow to the heart, increasing the risk of angina, heart failure, or a heart attack.
  • Brain: A blockage in the arteries can lower or prevent blood flow to the brain, leading to a stroke.
  • Kidneys: High blood pressure can result in kidney damage and chronic kidney disease.

Always remember, all of these effects can be life-threatening.

What are the Signs of High Blood Pressure? 

Most people with high blood pressure will not experience any symptoms, which is why people often call hypertension the “silent killer.”

However, once blood pressure reaches about 180/120 mm Hg, it becomes a hypertensive crisis, which is a medical emergency.

At this stage, a person may have:
  • a headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • blurred or double vision
  • nosebleeds
  • heart palpitations
  • breathlessness

Anybody who experiences these symptoms should see their doctor immediately.

What are the Risk Factors of Hypertension

First of all, the AHA recommends that people limit their salt intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day and preferably reducing it to 1,500 mg. On average, people in the U.S. currently consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium daily.

For most people, the natural sodium content in vegetables, for example, is enough for their body’s needs. Avoiding the salt shaker and eating less processed and premade food are good ways to cut salt intake.

Without treatment or taking measures to manage blood pressure, excessive pressure on the artery walls can lead to damage of the blood vessels, which is a form of cardiovascular disease. It can also damage some vital organs.

On a clear note, people with overweight or obesity are more likely to develop it, and as such a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk. At the same time, a diet that is high in unsaturated fat and salt increases the risk of high blood pressure.

As for the high cholesterol, over 50% of people with high blood pressure have high cholesterol. And be that as it may, consuming unhealthful fats can contribute to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries.

Is High Blood Pressure Genetic?

The main risk factors for Hypertension are likely to be environmental, but genetic factors may play a role. Hypertension can run in families, and people from certain ethnic and racial backgrounds appear to have a higher risk.

According to the CDC, however, people in a family often share similar lifestyles, such as dietary choices. Meaning that people who have close family members with hypertension are more likely to develop it.

If a person has genetic factors that increase their susceptibility to Hypertension, and they also make lifestyle choices that increase this risk, they will likely have a greater chance of developing it.

When do I see a Doctor?

Many people with Hypertension do not have symptoms.

And for this reason, they must have regular screening, especially those with a higher risk. This group includes the following:

  • people with obesity or overweight
  • African Americans
  • those with a previous history of Hypertension
  • those with blood pressure that is at the high end of normal (from 130–139/ 85–89 mm Hg)
  • people with certain health conditions

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screening.

Especially for:
  • adults aged 40 years or older
  • those with an elevated risk of Hypertension
  • Persons with a higher risk include those who:
  • have high to normal blood pressure (130 to 139/85 to 89 mm Hg)
  • have overweight or obesity
  • are African Americans

Adults aged 18–39 years whose blood pressure is normal (less than 130/85 mm Hg) and who do not have other risk factors should have further screening every 3–5 years.

If rescreening in the doctor’s office shows that Hypertension has risen, the USPSTF recommends that the person use an ambulatory blood pressure monitor for 24 hours to assess their blood pressure further.

If this continues to show, the doctor will diagnose it. However, the USPSTF does not currently recommend routine screening for those aged 17 years and under.

Possible hypertension complications include:
  • stroke
  • heart attack and heart failure
  • blood clots
  • aneurysm
  • kidney disease
  • thickened, narrow, or torn blood vessels in the eyes
  • metabolic syndrome
  • brain function and memory problems

Seeking early treatment and managing blood pressure can help prevent many health complications.

How is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?

There are different devices for measuring Hypertension. A doctor will often use a manual sphygmomanometer with a stethoscope. This has a pressure cuff that they put around the person’s arm.

Digital devices are suitable for home use, and they available from pharmacies and for purchase online. And when a person gets a Hypertension reading, they will have one of the following:

  1. Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg.
  2. Elevated: 120–129/80 mm Hg. At this stage, a doctor will advise the individual to make lifestyle changes to return their Hypertension to the normal range.
  3. Stage 1 hypertension: 130–139/80–89 mm Hg.
  4. Stage 2 hypertension: Over 140/90 mm Hg.
  5. Hypertensive crisis: 180/120 mm Hg or above.

A person with a hypertensive crisis needs immediate medical attention.

Typically, a person will need more than one reading to confirm a diagnosis, as various factors can affect the result. Above all, blood pressure can fluctuate according to the time of day, when a person feels anxiety, stress, or after eating.

However, a doctor will take immediate action if a reading shows very high blood pressure or if there are signs of organ damage or other complications.

Other tests that can help confirm diagnosis include;
  • Urine and blood tests: These can check for underlying problems, such as a urine infection or kidney damage.
  • Exercise stress test: A healthcare professional will measure a person’s blood pressure before, during, and after using a stationary bicycle or a treadmill. The results can give important clues about heart health.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG tests electrical activity in the heart. For a person with hypertension and high cholesterol levels, a doctor may order an ECG as a baseline for comparing future results. Changes in future results might show that coronary artery disease is developing or that the heart wall is thickening.
  • Holter monitoring: For 24 hours, the individual carries an ECG portable device that connects to their chest through electrodes. This device can provide an overview of blood pressure throughout the day and show how it changes as the level of activity varies.
  • Echocardiogram: Ultrasound waves show the heart in motion. The doctor will be able to detect problems, such as thickening of the heart wall, defective heart valves, blood clots, and excessive fluid around the heart.

How is High Blood Pressure treated?

Treatment will depend on several factors, including and not limited to: how high blood pressure is and the risk of cardiovascular disease or a stroke.

The doctor will recommend different treatments as Hypertension increases. For slightly high blood pressure, they may suggest making lifestyle changes and monitoring it.

If blood pressure is high, they will recommend medication. The options may change over time, according to how severe the hypertension is and whether complications arise, such as kidney disease. Some people may need a combination of several different medications.

1. Medical Remedies

Conventional drugs for treating high blood pressure include:

1.1 Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors block the actions of some hormones that regulate blood pressure, such as angiotensin II. Angiotensin II causes the arteries to constrict and increases blood volume, resulting in increased blood pressure.

ACE inhibitors can reduce the blood supply to the kidneys, making them less effective. As a result, it is necessary for people taking ACE inhibitors to have regular blood tests.

People should not use ACE inhibitors if they: are pregnant or have a condition that affects the blood supply to the kidneys.

ACE inhibitors may cause some side effects, which usually resolve after a few days. Like, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, headaches, and a persistent dry cough. And if the side effects are persistent or too unpleasant to manage, a doctor may prescribe an angiotensin II receptor antagonist instead.

These alternative medications often cause fewer side effects, but they may include dizziness, headaches, and increased potassium levels in the blood.

1.2 Calcium channel blockers

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) aim to decrease calcium levels in the blood vessels. This will relax the vascular smooth muscle, causing the muscle to contract less forcefully, the arteries to widen, and blood pressure to go down.

CCBs may not always be suitable for people with a history of heart disease, liver disease, or circulation issues. A doctor can advise on taking CCBs and which type of CCB is safe to use.

The following side effects may occur, but they usually resolve after a few days. Such as redness of the skin, generally on the cheeks or neck, headaches, swollen ankles and feet, dizziness, fatigue, skin rash as well as a swollen abdomen, in rare cases.

You can learn more about calcium channel blockers.

1.3 Thiazide diuretics

Thiazide diuretics help the kidneys get rid of sodium and water. This lowers blood volume and pressure.

The following side effects can occur, and some of them may persist. Like low blood potassium, which can affect heart and kidney function, impaired glucose tolerance, and erectile dysfunction.

People taking thiazide diuretics should have regular blood and urine tests to monitor their blood sugar and potassium levels.

1.4 Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers were once popular for treating hypertension, but doctors only tend to prescribe them now when other treatments have not been successful.

Beta-blockers slow the heart rate and reduce the force of the heartbeat, causing a drop in blood pressure. The main side effects may include fatigue, cold hands, and feet, slow heartbeat, nausea, diarrhea, etc. While less common side effects include disturbed sleep, nightmares, and erectile dysfunction.

Beta-blockers are often the standard medication for a person with very high blood pressure, known as a hypertensive crisis.

1.5 Renin-inhibitors

Aliskiren (Tekturna, Rasilez) reduces the production of renin, an enzyme that the kidneys produce.

Renin helps produce a hormone that narrows blood vessels and raises blood pressure. Reducing this hormone causes the blood vessels to widen and blood pressure to fall.

This drug is relatively new, and healthcare professionals are still determining its optimal use and dosage.

Possible side effects include diarrhea, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and a cough. Essentially, it is important to read the packaging of any medication to check for interactions with other drugs.

2. Diet Remedies

Managing the diet can be an effective way of both preventing and treating Hypertension.

2.1 Plant-based foods

A healthy, balanced diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, vegetable and omega oils, and good quality, unrefined Carbohydrates, such as whole grains.

People who include animal products in their diet should trim all the fat off and avoid processed meats.

2.2 Lowering salt intake

Experts recommend reducing salt consumption and increasing potassium intake to manage or prevent high blood pressure.

Limiting salt intake to less than 5–6 grams per day could help improve cardiovascular health and reduce systolic blood pressure by 5.6 mm Hg in people with hypertension.

2.3 Healthful fats

In moderation, plant sources of fats, such as avocados, nuts, olive oil, and omega oils, can be healthful.

People should limit their intake of saturated fats and trans fats, common in animal-sourced and processed foods.

2.4 The DASH diet

Health experts recommend the DASH diet for people with Hypertension.

The DASH diet focuses on an eating plan that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and low-fat dairy products.

2.5 Alcohol

Some studies indicate that consuming some alcohol may help lower blood pressure.

However, others report the opposite, noting that even drinking a moderate amount might increase blood pressure levels.

People who regularly drink more than moderate amounts of alcohol will almost always experience elevated Hypertension levels.

2.6 Caffeine

Studies into the relationship between caffeine and blood pressure have produced conflicting results.

A report published in 2017 concluded that a moderate intake of coffee appears to be safe for people with high blood pressure. Read and learn more about Tea Types | Health Benefits & How they Inhibit Coronavirus.

3. Home Remedies

The AHA recommends a range of lifestyle adjustments that can help reduce blood pressure.

Such as managing stress, quitting smoking, healthy eating, getting exercise, and following any treatment plan the doctor prescribes.

Discuss any planned lifestyle changes with a healthcare professional before introducing them.

3.1 Maintain regular exercises

The AHA notes that most healthy people should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise a week.

This could be 30 minutes — or three lots of 10 minutes a day — on 5 days of the week. And this amount of exercise is also appropriate for people with high blood pressure.

However, a person who has not exercised for a while or who has a new diagnosis should talk to their doctor. In particular, before starting a new physical activity program. It helps to ensure the choices they make are suitable for them.

3.2 Lose some weight

Studies have revealed that losing as little as 5–10 pounds in weight can help reduce blood pressure.

Weight loss will also improve the effectiveness of Hypertension medications.

Ways of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight include getting regular exercise. As well as following a diet that emphasizes plant-based foods and limits the intake of fat and added sugars. That said, for more advice on maintaining weight loss, click here.

3.3 Get enough sleep

Increasing sleep alone cannot treat hypertension, but too little sleep and poor sleep quality may make it worse.

A 2015 analysis of data from a Korean national health survey found that people who had less than 5 hours of sleep per night were more likely to have hypertension.

In this article, you can find more tips on how to manage high blood pressure.

4. Natural Remedies

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the following may help lower blood pressure.

Activities such as meditation, yoga, qi gong, and tai chi, biofeedback and transcendental meditation, and other supplements. Such as garlic, flaxseed, green or black tea, probiotics, cocoa, and roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa).

The NCCIH adds, however, that there is not yet enough evidence to confirm that these can make a difference.

They also warn that:
  1. Some supplements can have adverse effects. They may raise blood pressure or interact with medications.
  2. Meditation and exercise therapies are usually safe, but some poses may not be suitable for people with high blood pressure.

Anyone who is considering an alternative therapy should speak to their doctor first.

Get some tips for lowering blood pressure naturally.

Can I take Decongestants?

Decongestants are a useful over-the-counter remedy when people have a stuffy or runny nose, but some decongestants can raise blood pressure.

Ingredients that can have this effect include oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, and pseudoephedrine.

A person should explain to their pharmacist that they have Hypertension and ask them to recommend a suitable option.

Summary,

More often, persistent stress can lead to Hypertension, and it may increase the risk of unhealthful choices, such as smoking. Also, Hypertension often occurs alongside type 1 diabetes. Following a treatment plan to manage diabetes can reduce the risk.

On the other hand, it is also more likely during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. Hypertension is also a symptom of preeclampsia, a potentially severe placental disorder. As for the sleep apnea, people with it momentarily stop breathing while they sleep. Experts say there are links with hypertension.

And by the same token, drinking a lot of alcohol also increases the risk of hypertension and its complications, such as heart disease. And when people smoke, the blood vessels narrow, and blood pressure rises. Smoking also reduces the blood’s oxygen content, so the heart pumps faster to compensate. This, too, increases hypertension.

Other risk factors for high blood pressure include Age and Ethnicity. Whereby, the risk increases with age because the blood vessels become less flexible. And as for the ethnic background, African Americans have a higher risk of developing hypertension than other groups in the United States.

Resources;

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Which foods are good for reducing blood pressure? Find out here. Also, find out more details here about blood pressure medications.

Additionally, read the review of the best home blood pressure monitors currently available for home use.

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