High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.
Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It has two numbers.
*Top number (systolic pressure). The first, or upper, number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
*Bottom number (diastolic pressure). The second, or lower, number measures the pressure in your arteries between beats.
You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.
CAUSES OF BLOOD PRESSURE
There are two types of hypertension. Each type has a different cause.
Essential (primary) hypertension
Essential hypertension is also called primary hypertension. This kind of hypertension develops over time. Most people have this type of high blood pressure.
A combination of factors typically play a role in the development of essential hypertension:
- Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from your parents.
- Age: Individuals over 65 years old are more at risk for hypertension.
- Race: Black non-Hispanic indiviuals have a higher incidence of hypertension.
- Living with obesity: Living with obesity can lead to a few cardiac issues, including hypertension.
- High alcohol consumption: Women who habitially have more than one drink per day, and men who have more than two drinks per day, may be at an increased risk for hypertension.
- Living a very seditary lifestlye: lowered levels of fitness have been connected to hypertension.
- Living with diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome: Individuals diagnosed with either diabetes or metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.
- high sodium intake: There’s a small association between daily high sodium intake (more than 1.5g a day) and hypertension.
Secondary hypertension often occurs quickly and can become more severe than primary hypertension. Several conditionsTrusted Source that may cause secondary hypertension include:
- kidney disease
- obstructive sleep apnea
- congenital heart defects
- problems with your thyroid
- side effects of medications
- use of illegal drugs
- chronic consumption of alcohol
- adrenal gland problems
- certain endocrine tumors
Facts You May Need To Know
-Normal Blood Pressure: 120 over 80 or Less
-Pre-hypertension: 120-139 over 80-89
–Stage 1 High Blood Pressure: 140-159 over 90-99
–Stage 2 High Blood Pressure: 160 and above over 100 and above
-High Blood Pressure in people over 60: 150 and above over 90 and above
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A number of factors help your doctor determine the best treatment option for you. These factors include which type of hypertension you have and what causes have been identified.
Primary hypertension treatment options
If your doctor diagnoses you with primary hypertension, lifestyle changes may help reduce your high blood pressure. If lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough, or if they stop being effective, your doctor may prescribe medication.
Secondary hypertension treatment options
If your doctor discovers an underlying issue causing your hypertension, treatment will focus on that other condition. For example, if a medication you’ve started taking is causing increased blood pressure, your doctor will try other medications that don’t have this side effect.
Sometimes, hypertension is persistent despite treatment for the underlying cause. In this case, your doctor may work with you to develop lifestyle changes and prescribe medications to help reduce your blood pressure.
Treatment plans for hypertension often evolve. What worked at first may become less useful over time. Your doctor will continue to work with you to refine your treatment.
Healthy lifestyle changes can help you control the factors that cause hypertension. Here are some of the most common ones.
Developing a heart-healthy diet
A heart-healthy diet is vital for helping to reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important for managing hypertension that’s under control and reducing the risk of complications. These complications include heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.
A heart-healthy diet emphasizes:
- whole grains
- lean proteins like fish
Increasing physical activity
In addition to helping you lose weight (if your doctor has recommended it), exercise can help lower blood pressure naturally, and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activityTrusted Source each week. That’s about 30 minutes, 5 times per week.
Reaching an optimal weight
If you’re living with obesity, maintaining a moderate weight with a heart-healthy diet and increased physical activity can help lower your blood pressure.
Exercise is a great way to manage stress. Other activities can also be helpful. These include:
- deep breathing
- muscle relaxation
- yoga or tai chi
Getting adequate sleep may also help reduce stress levels.
Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol
If you’re a smoker and have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will most likely advise you to quit. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the body’s tissues and harden blood vessel walls.
If you regularly consume too much alcohol or have an alcohol dependency, seek help to reduce the amount you drink or stop altogether. Drinking alcohol in excess can raise blood pressure.
If you have risk factors for hypertension, you can take steps now to lower your risk for the condition and its complications.
Add fruits and vegetables to your diet
Slowly work your way up to eating more servings of heart-healthy plants. Aim to eat more than seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Then aim to add one more serving per day for 2 weeks. After those 2 weeks, aim to add one more serving. The goal is to have 10 servings of fruits and vegetablesTrusted Source per day.
Limit refined sugar
Try to limit the amount of sugar-sweetened foods, like flavored yogurts, cereals, and sodas, you eat on a daily basis. Packaged foods hide unnecessary sugar, so be sure to read labels.
Reduce sodium intake
People living with hypertension and those with an increased risk for heart disease may be advised by their doctor to keep their daily sodium intake between 1,500 milligrams and 2,300 milligrams per dayTrusted Source.
The best way to reduce sodium is to cook fresh foods more often and limit the amount of fast food or prepackaged food you eat, which can sometimes be very high in sodium.
Set weight loss goals
If your doctor has recommended you lose weight, talk with them about an optimal weight loss goal for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommends a weight loss goal of one to two pounds a week. This can be achieved through a more nutritious diet and increased physical exercise.
Employing the help of a trainer or fitness app, and possibly even a dietician, are all methods to help you learn how to make the best choices for your body and your lifestyle.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly
The best way to prevent complications and avoid problems is to recognize hypertension early.
Keep a log of your blood pressure readings and take it to your regular doctor appointments. This can help your doctor see any possible problems before the condition advances.
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