Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is often a silent killer. The disorder can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure may cause disabilities, a poor quality of life, or even be fatal. Hypertension may also be called the silent killer since nearly half of people that go untreated die of heart disease and another third die of stroke. Understanding this important health indicator is essential for good health.
Understanding Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is defined as the pressure of the blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers – systolic blood pressure (the top number) and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number). Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is resting between beats. Normal blood pressure is considered less than 120/80. High blood pressure is a reading of 140/90 or higher.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
The exact causes of high blood pressure are still a bit of a mystery. We do know the following factors play a large role in developing high blood pressure. Be sure to check with your doctor if any of the following apply to you:
Being overweight or obese
Lack of physical activity
Too much salt in the diet
Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
A family history of high blood pressure
Chronic kidney disease
Adrenal and thyroid disorders
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can cause very serious health disruptions. These include:
High blood pressure can cause personality changes, trouble concentrating, or a progressive loss of consciousness. High blood pressure can also result in a stroke – a life threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Severe damage to the body's main artery may occur as an effect of hypertension. Over time, the constant pressure of blood moving through a weakened artery may also cause a section of the wall to bulge, forming an aneurysm.
Problems with your heart
People with high blood pressure are at an exponentially higher risk for heart attacks. The heart may also develop sudden impairments due to the vast amounts of blood being pumped. There may be fluid backup in the lungs causing shortness of breath called pulmonary edema.
One of the most common kidney issues related to high blood pressure is loss of kidney function or kidney failure. Damage inhibits your kidneys from effectively filtering waste from your blood. As a result, dangerous levels of fluid and waste accumulate.
How to Take Control of Hypertension
To avoid the detrimental effects of high blood pressure, the American Heart Association suggests five simple steps to control your blood pressure:
- Know your blood pressure numbers. Talk to your doctor about your personal target blood pressure.
- Work with your doctor. If needed, your doctor or healthcare provider will set a plan to lower your blood pressure.
- Make simple lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes will likely be part of the game plan set by your doctor, but here are a few tips to be proactive!
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat healthier
- Reduce sodium
- Get active
- Limit alcohol
- Keep checking your blood pressure at home. Talk to your doctor about owning a device to check your blood pressure at home. This will help you keep a close eye on any changes that might occur.
- Take your medication exactly as prescribed!
High blood pressure can be a serious medical condition. Left untreated, it can even be fatal. To keep your blood pressure in check, know your blood pressure readings, be aware of symptoms, and work with your doctor to create a health plan.