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What is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?
Popularly known as High Blood Pressure, Hypertension can lead to severe health complications by increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart attack and heart failure, sometimes even leading to death. It is important to keep your blood pressure under control in order to preserve your health and avoid such complications.
Table of Contents
Blood Pressure Levels
High blood pressure or hypertension is simply understood as having a blood pressure higher than normal. With the activities one conducts throughout the day, the blood pressure keeps rising and falling and can have different meanings. Constantly high levels of BP might result in a full-blown diagnosis of high blood pressure (hypertension).
Blood pressure is the pressure that the blood exudes in pushing against the walls of the arteries. These arteries are responsible for carrying blood from the heart to other parts of the body. So higher the blood pressure, the more problematic this process. High levels of blood pressure can cause more risk to the heart, and increased chances of heart diseases, stroke, heart attack, etc can be seen with high BP.
The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (2003 Guideline)
|Normal||systolic: less than 120 mm Hgdiastolic: less than 80 mm Hg|
|At risk (prehypertension)||systolic: 120–139 mm Hgdiastolic: 80–89 mm Hg|
|High Blood Pressure (hypertension)||systolic: 140 mm Hg or higherdiastolic: 90 mm Hg or higher|
The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults (2017 Guideline)1
|Normal||systolic: less than 120 mm Hgdiastolic: less than 80 mm Hg|
|Elevated||systolic: 120–129 mm Hgdiastolic: less than 80 mm Hg|
|High Blood Pressure (hypertension)||systolic: 130 mm Hg or higherdiastolic: 80 mm Hg or higher|
High Blood Pressure Symptoms
Symptoms in hypertension are not always visible and thus it gets it’s other name “the silent killer”. If not diagnosed at a certain level, it can create high complications such as heart ailments; damage to blood vessels and also harm the kidney.
In severe cases, symptoms such as anxiety, sleep issues, heavy sweating and hot flashes might take place. However, this is very rare and most people with this condition do not really experience any symptoms.
In extreme cases where it leads to hypertensive cases, the affected might have headaches and nosebleeds.
Risk factors of High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Some risk factors caused due to hypertension are:
- Age: With age, the risk of blood pressure also increases. Men are likely at the risk of high blood pressure earlier in age than women.
- Race: African heritage is studied to be at the risk of high blood pressure as opposed to the whites.
- Family history: High BP could also be Hereditary.
- Being overweight or obese: The heavier you weigh, the more blood you require in order to supply oxygen as well as nutrients to your tissues. The more blood circulated through your blood vessels; there is an increase of pressure on your artery walls.
- Not being physically active: Your heart rate would be higher if you are inactive. In this case, the heart needs to function harder with each contraction.
- Using tobacco: Smoking or using tobacco in any form directly increases your blood pressure temporarily. However, the chemicals present in them can have a long term effect on your artery walls, causing your arteries to narrow which in turn increases your risk to heart diseases.
- Too much salt (sodium) in your diet: The sodium levels in your body can affect the fluid levels, which may increase of decrease your blood pressure.
- Drinking too much alcohol: Alcohol has a direct relation to heart conditions. It is important to drink in moderation if consumed regularly. While men can take up to 2 glasses a day, women should restrict themselves to one.
- Stress: Stress is often directly related to be an underlying cause of high BP. A lot of people rely on food, alcohol and smoking in order to ease their stress, however, one should remember that they are causes of high blood pressure as well.
- Certain chronic conditions: Kidney ailments, diabetes and certain other chronic diseases could also be underlying causes of high blood pressure.
Causes of Hypertension
Hypertension is often caused due to an underlying health condition, while it is not very specific. If an underlying condition is the cause of an increase of your blood pressure, it is called secondary hypertension. The causes of hypertension can depend on the type of hypertension; primary or secondary.
Multiple factors could result in primary hypertension causes that may include:
- High volume of blood plasma
- Hormonal activity level in people with blood pressure
- Stress or the lack of regular exercise
The cause of secondary hypertension is very specific and is a complication of an underlying disease or health issue. The chronic kidney disease is one the most common cause of high levels of blood pressure. This is due to the fact that the kidneys don’t filter out fluids from the body anymore, leading to hypertension.
Some common conditions that can lead to hypertension include:
- Kidney diseases
- Pheochromocytoma, a rare form of cancer in the adrenal gland
- Cushing syndrome caused by corticosteroid drugs
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
How is Hypertension Diagnosed?
One important way to detect hypertension is to check your blood pressure often. Doctors may be able to check and provide hypertension treatment if you have been hypertension diagnosed.
Doctors may take multiple readings throughout the day in order to diagnose whether you have hypertension or not. This is due to the fact that our blood pressure levels may vary throughout the day.
A combination of medicinal intervention and lifestyle changes is the treatment provided for hypertension.
With regards to medication, doctors may prescribe tablets based on the underlying condition that caused hypertension in the first place. Some of the common medications are Diuretics, Beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and vasodilators. These are generally prescribed in more severe cases depending on the root of the problem.
Consequently, doctors will also advice a healthy lifestyle such as nutritious diet, regular exercise and stress-busting activities as a part of your treatment. It is also important to cut down on any alcohol practices and smoking habits that you may have in this case.
Balancing a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent hypertension for anyone. Few simple ways to create a healthier lifestyle are:
- Eat nutritious food – eat healthful, add a lot of protein and veggies to your diet.
- Exercise – spend at least 30 mins a day exercising. Be it walking, jogging, dancing, cycling or any kind of movement.
- Meditate – meditating every day will help you relax and avoid stress by managing situations calmly.
Diabetes and Hypertension
Many people with type 2 diabetes often note having higher levels of blood pressure. They are warned to take special care against any kind of complication that may arise as a result of BP and related issues. Studies show that more than 2/3rds of people with diabetes report higher blood pressure levels and are twice at risk for heart diseases. They are common and are linked to obesity. There are different ways in which having diabetes can be linked to high blood pressure. T2D is caused because of insulin resistance. This means that sugar builds up in the body and the bloodstream. If there is a higher need for insulin (either when the body makes it or externally), it causes the body to retain salt and fluids. This can lead to the symptoms of hypertension.
Diabetes, along with BP can lead to other complications like – heart attack, stroke, kidney diseases, retinopathy, etc. Chronic high BP can also lead to early onset Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, stroke in the brain, etc.
Best food for diabetes and high blood pressure
Lifestyle changes including diet and exercise can help greatly with the reduction of symptoms of BP. Some food items that you can choose to eat in case you are dealing with diabetes and high levels of blood pressure could be:
- Low-sugar diet
- Fruits and vegetables
- Healthy Fats
- Whole grains
- Fiber and protein-rich food
What you should not eat is – too much salt (one teaspoon a day only), smoking, alcoholic beverages, etc
Best exercise for diabetes and high blood pressure
Exercising not only helps with blood sugars but can also help with blood pressure. It works holistically as it burns the extra sugar, carbs, and fat from the body. When we exercise, we also sweat which releases the extra salt from the body that helps lower the BP.
- Moderate intensity exercise for 150 minutes per week
- High-intensity exercise for 75 minutes per week
- Or a combination of both can work
One can also choose a brisk walk to begin with and then slowly increase their exercise levels from low to moderate to high-intensity workouts.
Heart Attack and Heart Disease
High blood pressure causes severe distress to the heart and can also lead to heart attack or other kinds of heart diseases. It can affect and damage different organs in the body and, therefore, being able to maintain a normal blood pressure becomes vital. High blood pressure levels can affect the arteries. It makes them less elastic which means that there would be a decrease in the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. If the heart receives less oxygen, it might lead to a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to the heart can cause other issues like:
- Chest pain or angina
- Heart attack – the longer the flow of blood is blocked, the greater would be the damage to the heart
- Heart failure – the heart would not be able to pump enough blood and oxygen and, therefore, would not be able to send oxygenated blood to other organs.
Stroke and Brain Problems
High BP can also result in the arteries that are responsible for supplying blood and oxygen to the brain being blocked or bursting. In other words, this can be described as a stroke. There is a destruction of brain cells during a stroke as they do not receive the amount of oxygen required for them to survive. Strokes are responsible for severe impairments in speech, movement, and other basic activities. Strokes can also result in death.
High blood pressure early on in life can result in poor cognitive functioning and dementia in the later stages of life.
Also read about uses and side effects of sugar tablet
Hypertension or high blood pressure can cause complications that are fatal in the long run. Keeping these levels in the normal range with the help of medication, activities, exercise, and a healthy diet will be highly beneficial. It is often known as the ‘silent killer’ and is co-morbid with several other health conditions. Identifying risk factors and getting the BP levels checked regularly would be one way to deal with it. Removing too much salt from the diet, avoiding smoking or drinking, burning body fat, proper stress management techniques, etc are a few ways in which you can get your blood pressure under control. Prevention of these symptoms would be better than having to treat them later in life.
Can you exercise with hypertension?
Yes, exercise is a requirement for people dealing with hypertension. Mild exercise routines like brisk walking, jogging, yoga exercises, cardio training (under professional guidance), etc are recommended to bring the blood pressure levels back down
Can lack of sleep cause high blood pressure?
The lesser one sleeps, the higher it causes the blood pressure to go. Therefore, to prevent high blood pressure, one must take care of their sleep cycle. In case the diagnosis of high BP is already done, ensure that the sleep cycle is already on track to avoid further complications.
Is Apple good for high blood pressure?
Apples are rich in polyphenols and potassium. These are elements that are required to lower blood pressure. Additionally, apples are also filling, so they can also help with weight loss.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.