This article was compiled by
Dr. G. M. Siddiqui, M.D
CEO, Medical Services, Lifeline Healthcare.
Blood pressure measures the force pushing outwards on your arterial walls. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped arteries and veins, also known as blood vessels and capillaries. The pressure --- blood pressure --- is the result of forces generated by heart beats. Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. It should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic) for an adult age 20 or over.
Why Blood Pressure Matters
High blood pressure is a chronic condition, and the damage it causes to blood vessels and organs generally occurs over years. It's sometimes called "the silent killer" because high blood pressure has no symptoms, so you may not be aware that it's damaging your arteries, heart and other organs.
Possible health consequences that can happen over time when high blood pressure is left untreated include:
- # Damage to the heart including heart attack, heart disease, congestive heart failure, aortic dissection and atherosclerosis (fatty buildups in the arteries that cause them to harden)
- # Stroke
- # Kidney Damage
- # Vision Loss
- # Erectile Dysfunction
- # Memory loss
- # Fluid in the lungs
- # Vascular Damage of body parts and organs.
Your risk increases even more if you have high blood pressure along with other risk factors:
- # Age
- # Heredity (including race)
- # Gender (male)
- # Overweight or obesity
- # High Cholesterol
- # Diabetes
- # Physical inactivity
Through risk reduction and treatment of high blood pressure, you can lower your risk for many of these diseases.
Understand Your Risk for High Blood Pressure (HBP)
Are you a likely candidate for high blood pressure (HBP)?
Risk factors for developing high blood pressure include:
- A. Family history
If your parents or close blood relatives have had HBP, you are more likely to develop it, too. You might also pass that risk factor on to your children. You can't control heredity, but you can take steps to live a healthy life and lower your other risk factors.
- B. Advanced age
As we age, our blood vessels lose flexibility with age which can contribute to increasing pressure throughout the system.
- C. Gender-related risk patterns
A higher percentage of men than women have HBP until 45 years of age. From ages 45 to 54 and 55 to 64, the percentages of men and women with HBP are similar. After that, a much higher percentage of women have HBP than men.
- D. Lack of physical activity
- Physical activity is good for your heart and circulatory system. An inactive lifestyle increases the chance of high blood pressure, heart disease, blood vessel disease and stroke.
- E. Poor diet, especially one that includes too much salt
There are some problems that can happen from eating too much salt. Salt keeps excess fluid in the body that can add to the burden on the heart. While too much salt can be dangerous, healthy food choices can actually lower blood pressure.
- F. Overweight and obesity
Being overweight increases your chances of developing high blood pressure. Excess weight increases the strain on the heart, raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can also make diabetes more likely to develop.
- G. Drinking too much alcohol
Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically. It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
Possible contributing factors
There is some connection between blood pressure and these factors but science has not proven that they actually cause high blood pressure.
- 1. Stress
Long lasting stressful situation can increase your blood pressure. How you deal with stress may affect other, established risk factors for high blood pressure or heart disease.
- 2. Smoking and second-hand smoke
Smoking temporarily raises blood pressure and increases your risk of damaged arteries. Secondhand smoke --- exposure to other people's smoke --- increases the risk of heart disease for nonsmokers.
- 3. Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder in which tissues in the throat collapse and block the airway. The brain forces the sleeper awake enough to cough or gulp air and open the trachea up again. But then, the whole cycle starts all over again. Pauses in breathing can contribute to severe fatigue during the day, increase your safety risks, and make it difficult to perform tasks that require alertness. Sleep apnea is also a risk factor for such medical problems as high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes and stroke.
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Monitoring of High Blood Pressure
Do you know the state of your blood pressure?
Many people have high blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension, for years without knowing it. Most of the time, there are no symptoms, but when high blood pressure goes untreated, it damages arteries and vital organs throughout the body. That's why high blood pressure is often called the "silent killer."
There is good news! High blood pressure is treatable.
There's a common misconception that people with high blood pressure, or hypertension, will experience symptoms such as nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping or facial flushing. The truth is that HBP is largely a symptomless condition. If you ignore your blood pressure readings and think symptoms will alert you to the problem, you are taking a dangerous chance with your life. Everybody needs to know their blood pressure numbers, and everyone needs to prevent high blood pressure from developing.
As mentioned above, only when blood pressure readings soar to dangerously high levels (systolic of 180 or higher OR diastolic of 110 or higher) may obvious symptoms occur. Blood pressure this high is known as Hypertensive Crisis, and emergency medical treatment is needed.
In addition to extreme readings, a person in hypertensive crisis may experience:
- # Severe headaches
- # Severe anxiety
- # Shortness of breath
- # Nosebleeds
Prevention & Treatment of High Blood Pressure
If I have HBP, what can I do to take care of myself?
There are eight main ways you can control your blood pressure.
- # Eat a better diet which may include reducing salt
- # Enjoy regular physical activity
- # Maintain a healthy weight
- # Manage Stress
- # Quit Smocking
- # Take your medications as advised by your doctor
- # If you drink, limit alcohol
Lifestyle modifications are essential. These changes may reduce your blood pressure without the use of prescription medications. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is critical for the prevention of HBP and an essential part of managing it. Think of these changes as a "lifestyle prescription" and make every effort to comply with them.
By adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, you can:
- # Reduce high blood pressure
- # Prevent or delay the development of HBP
- # Enhance the effectiveness of blood pressure medications
- # Lower your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease
Collaboration Is Key. A key to better control is a good doctor-patient partnership.
Following steps will help to achieve better collaboration with your caregiver.
- # Check your blood pressure regularly between appointments — at home, a pharmacy or another facility. Follow up with your doctor based on his or her recommendations.
- # Keep a Record of your medication, blood pressure levels, and questions to ask your doctor as they come to mind. Consult your physician if you have any questions, and seek advice.
It may take a while to get to your blood pressure goal, and it may take more than one medicine in addition to lifestyle changes to get you there. Keep in close touch with your healthcare provider along the way to create the best plan for yourself.