Understanding High Blood Pressure
When you have high blood pressure, you’re given the diagnosis of hypertension by your doctor. It can be scary, considering the effects it can have on your body and overall health. But you might not really know what high blood means – or exactly how dangerous it really is.
What Is Blood Pressure – And What’s Normal?
Blood pressure is how strong the pressure is when the blood flows through your arteries. It shouldn’t be too strong, or too low, either – there’s a happy medium. You probably know the perfect reading for healthy people – 120 (systolic blood pressure) over 80 (diastolic blood pressure). Technically, it’s written as 120/80 mmHg.
That number is supposed to be even lower in most cases where the patient has suffered previous health conditions such as a stroke or heart problem. Even kidney issues can result in your need for even lower blood pressure readings.
What happens when your blood pressure is off is that those numbers begin to change – sometimes by a little, other times by a lot. Once you get to the 140/90 range, your doctor will diagnose you as having high blood pressure and urge you to make changes.
There’s a range in between 120/80 and 140/90 that’s known as pre-hypertension. That just means you’re teetering dangerously close to having full-blown high blood pressure.
What Causes Changes in Blood Pressure Readings?
Your blood pressure can fluctuate to some degree, even when you just walk into the doctor’s office if you’re nervous. But it won’t change too much unless you’ve been suffering some varying health conditions.
As you get older, your blood pressure might naturally begin to increase. Your blood vessels aren’t as flexible when you’re older – they tend to become more rigid.
· Overweight individuals have more instances of hypertension.
· Your hormones changing can affect your blood pressure levels.
· Genetics play a role in whether or not you have hypertension.
· Stress and anxiety can cause spikes in your blood pressure.
· Diabetics experience more instances of high blood pressure.
· Salt is a contributing factor to high blood pressure readings.
· The shape of your blood vessels will help or hurt your blood pressure.
· If your kidneys are in bad shape, it can cause high blood pressure.
· Smokers see a diagnosis of hypertension more often than non-smokers.
· Overloading on alcohol can mean high blood pressure readings.
· A Potassium deficiency or Vitamin D deficiency contributes to hypertension.
· African Americans have to worry more about hypertension.
Here’s something scary – in most cases (90-95%), there’s no formal cause found for your high blood pressure! They call this phenomenon essential (primary) hypertension. All they know is that your heart has to work much harder to pump blood through your body.
Secondary hypertension is when high blood pressure levels are caused by another medical condition, like kidney disease.
What’s Dangerous About High Blood Pressure?
When hypertension is diagnosed, you have to be on the lookout for symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. In other words – high blood pressure can kill you – it’s as simple as that.
That’s why it’s imperative that you get it under control fast and for the long-term – because you don’t need or want the stress of worrying about your expiration date on this planet!
Don’t trick yourself into believing that a small rise in numbers isn’t harmful, either. Even a moderate raise shortens your lifespan.
Whenever you’re diagnosed, your doctor may ask you to make some common lifestyle changes. If that doesn’t work, then medications may be prescribed to help lower your blood pressure. In some instances, your hypertension may be labeled resistant if medication doesn’t lower your readings.
Signs to Watch Out for With Hypertension
Your body will begin to suffer reactions whenever your blood pressure starts to rise, but only when it gets severe. For the most part, it’s a silent killer – because people aren’t aware of it until they go to their doctor for a check-up and find out it’s elevated then.
By the time you’re aware of it, it’s already started wreaking havoc on your health. One form of high blood pressure (known as malignant hypertension), does show symptoms when an onset of elevated blood pressure occurs.
You might experience:
Swelling in legs
Change in eyesight
Monitoring Your Blood Pressure Levels
The first time you find out that you have hypertension, you might be in the doctor’s office for your annual check-up. He or she will usually have you come back in about a week or so to re-check your blood pressure reading.
They don’t give you a label after one high reading. You’ll be checked two or more times and then you can continue monitoring your blood pressure at home with one of the over-the-counter devices that are easy to use and automated for your convenience.
Upon diagnosis, your doctor will look for other signs of hypertension – changes to your body that affect the eyes, your heart, and other areas.
Addressing a High Blood Pressure Diagnosis
The good news is, this is something you can usually get under control easily! So your first option is to control your blood pressure readings on your own using diet, exercise, stress relief and other measures to knock the numbers down to a healthy range.
If that doesn’t work, then your doctor may prescribe medication. But let’s learn about things that are in your control when it comes to lifestyle changes. Don’t be afraid moving forward – 1 in 3 grown Americans (63 million) are diagnosed with hypertension, so you’re not alone.