30 Important things about Hypertension you didn't know about

Important things about High blood pressure you didn't know about (hypertension)

 

    Overview

    High blood pressure 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.

     

    You can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues and can be detected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.

    High blood pressure generally develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. 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.

    Symptoms Of Hypertension

    Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels.

    A few people with high blood pressure may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren't specific and usually don't occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.

    How to confirm that you have high blood pressure (Hypertension)

    To be certain that you have Hypertension you need to visit a local hospital or pharmacy near you. You'll likely have your blood pressure taken as part of a routine doctor's appointment.

    Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you're age 40 or older, or you're 18 to 39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year.

    Blood pressure generally should be checked in both arms to determine if there's a difference. It's important to use an appropriate-sized arm cuff.

    Your doctor will likely recommend more frequent readings if you've already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Children age 3 and older will usually have blood pressure measured as a part of their yearly checkups.

    If you don't regularly see your doctor, you may be able to get a free blood pressure screening at a health resource fair or other locations in your community. You can also find machines in some stores that will measure your blood pressure for free.

    Public blood pressure machines, such as those found in pharmacies, may provide helpful information about your blood pressure, but they may have some limitations. The accuracy of these machines depends on several factors, such as a correct cuff size and proper use of the machines. Ask your doctor for advice on using public blood pressure machines.

    Causes of Hypertension

    There are two types of high blood pressure.

    Primary (essential) hypertension

    For most adults, there's no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure, called primary (essential) hypertension, tends to develop gradually over many years.

    Secondary hypertension

    Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure, called secondary hypertension, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:

    • Obstructive sleep apnea
    • Kidney problems
    • Adrenal gland tumors
    • Thyroid problems
    • Certain defects you're born with (congenital) in blood vessels
    • Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
    • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines

    Risk factors of having high blood pressure

    High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:

    • Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. Until about age 64, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
    • Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among people of African heritage, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack and kidney failure, also are more common in people of African heritage.
    • Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
    • Being overweight or obese. The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
    • Not being physically active. People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of being overweight.
    • Using tobacco. Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow and increase your risk of heart disease. Secondhand smoke also can increase your heart disease risk.
    • Too much salt (sodium) in your diet. Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
    • Too little potassium in your diet. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don't get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.
    • Drinking too much alcohol. Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men may affect your blood pressure.

      If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

    • Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you try to relax by eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol, you may only increase problems with high blood pressure.
    • Certain chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, such as kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea.

    Sometimes pregnancy contributes to high blood pressure, as well.

    Although high blood pressure is most common in adults, children may be at risk, too. For some children, high blood pressure is caused by problems with the kidneys or heart. But for a growing number of kids, poor lifestyle habits, such as an unhealthy diet, obesity and lack of exercise, contribute to high blood pressure.

    Complications that can arise from Hypertension

    The excessive pressure on your artery walls caused by high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, as well as organs in your body. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage.

    Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to complications including:

    • Heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.
    • Aneurysm. Increased blood pressure can cause your blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening.
    • Heart failure. To pump blood against the higher pressure in your vessels, the heart has to work harder. This causes the walls of the heart's pumping chamber to thicken (left ventricular hypertrophy). Eventually, the thickened muscle may have a hard time pumping enough blood to meet your body's needs, which can lead to heart failure.
    • Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys. This can prevent these organs from functioning normally.
    • Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes. This can result in vision loss.
    • Metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a cluster of disorders of your body's metabolism, including increased waist circumference; high triglycerides; low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol; high blood pressure and high insulin levels. These conditions make you more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
    • Trouble with memory or understanding. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may also affect your ability to think, remember and learn. Trouble with memory or understanding concepts is more common in people with high blood pressure.
    • Dementia. Narrowed or blocked arteries can limit blood flow to the brain, leading to a certain type of dementia (vascular dementia). A stroke that interrupts blood flow to the brain also can cause vascular dementia.
    Treatment options for high blood pressure

    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 medicine you’ve started taking is causing increased blood pressure, your doctor will try other medicines 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.

    Easy treatment plans for hypertension

    Many people go through a trial-and-error phase with blood pressure medications. You may need to try different medicines until you find one or a combination of medications that work for you.

    Some of the medications used to treat hypertension include:

    • Beta-blockersBeta-blockers make your heart beat slower and with less force. This reduces the amount of blood pumped through your arteries with each beat, which lowers blood pressure. It also blocks certain hormones in your body that can raise your blood pressure.
    • Diuretics: High sodium levels and excess fluid in your body can increase blood pressure. Diuretics, also called water pills, help your kidneys remove excess sodium from your body. As the sodium leaves, extra fluid in your bloodstream moves into your urine, which helps lower your blood pressure.
    • ACE inhibitors: Angiotensin is a chemical that causes blood vessels and artery walls to tighten and narrow. ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors prevent the body from producing as much of this chemical. This helps blood vessels relax and reduces blood pressure.
    • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): While ACE inhibitors aim to stop the creation of angiotensin, ARBs block angiotensin from binding with receptors. Without the chemical, blood vessels won’t tighten. That helps relax vessels and lower blood pressure.
    • Calcium channel blockers: These medications block some of the calcium from entering the cardiac muscles of your heart. This leads to less forceful heartbeats and a lower blood pressure. These medicines also work in the blood vessels, causing them to relax and further lowering blood pressure.
    • Alpha-2 agonists: This type of medication changes the nerve impulses that cause blood vessels to tighten. This helps blood vessels to relax, which reduces blood pressure.
    Home remedies for high blood pressure

    Healthy lifestyle changes can help you control the factors that cause hypertension. Here are some of the most common home remedies.

    Developing a healthy diet

    A heart-healthy diet is vital for helping to reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important for managing hypertension that is under control and reducing the risk of complications. These complications include heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

    A heart-healthy diet emphasizes foods that include:

    • fruits
    • vegetables
    • whole grains
    • lean proteins like fish

    Increasing physical activity

    Reaching a healthy weight should include being more physically active. In addition to helping you shed pounds, exercise can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure naturally, and strengthen your cardiovascular system.

    Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. That’s about 30 minutes five times per week.

    Reaching a healthy weight

    If you are overweight or obese, losing weight through a heart-healthy diet and increased physical activity can help lower your blood pressure.

    Managing stress

    Exercise is a great way to manage stress. Other activities can also be helpful. These include:

    • meditation
    • deep breathing
    • massage
    • muscle relaxation
    • yoga or tai chi

    These are all proven stress-reducing techniques. Getting adequate sleep can also help reduce stress levels.

    Adopting a cleaner lifestyle

    If you’re a smoker, try to quit. The chemicals in tobacco smoke 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. Alcohol can raise blood pressure.

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