What is hypertension?
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against artery walls. It is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the resistance to blood flow in your arteries. Blood pressure can rise and fall throughout the day. In a blood pressure reading, the first number, or systolic number, represents how hard your heart is working and the pressure when your heart beats. The diastolic, or second number, refers to the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure is at or below 120/80 mm Hg.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common, serious medical condition in which the force of the blood against the walls of the arteries is too high. High blood pressure occurs when the pressure inside the arteries is elevated. Hypertension affects 1 in 3 American adults and can lead to heart disease. Blood pressure is considered high at 130/80 or above. Stage 2 hypertension is at 140/90. When the force of blood flow in the body is too strong it can damage the artery walls. Plaque can develop in the arteries which cause them to narrow, and forces the heart to work harder to deliver blood and oxygen to the body.
Hypertension can be easy to detect through blood pressure readings. At the doctor’s office, your blood pressure will be taken at the beginning of every appointment with a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure cuff. You can also check your blood pressure at home using a cuff. Read on to learn about the symptoms, risks, and treatment for hypertension.
Symptoms of hypertension
Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it typically does not present symptoms in patients. Those with high blood pressure may be unaware of the problem because there are little to no warning signs. Sometimes symptoms may only present themselves when hypertension has reached a life-threatening stage.
Symptoms of hypertension include:
- Feeling flushed
- Shortness of breath
More severe symptoms are:
- Vision changes
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Muscle tremors
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, check your blood pressure and call your doctor immediately.
Causes of hypertension
High blood pressure can be caused by a variety of factors such as diet, genetics, environment, stress, diabetes, and other medical conditions. There are two types of high blood pressure: primary hypertension and secondary hypertension.
Primary, or essential, hypertension is the most common type of high blood pressure. Typically primary high blood pressure is the result of aging and accounts for 90% of hypertension cases. Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure caused by another medical condition or certain medications. Some medications can raise your blood pressure such as oral contraceptives, nasal decongestants, cold remedies, and diet pills.
You may have also heard the term white coat hypertension. This refers to when your blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office are higher than they are elsewhere. If you experience white coat hypertension, you may be at a higher risk of developing a cardiovascular problem.
Factors that influence hypertension
Risk factors for both primary and secondary hypertension include family history, a high fat and salt diet, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress and anxiety, and certain medications. Read on for more information on factors that influence hypertension.
Age is a common risk factor. Those 65 years and older are at a higher risk for hypertension.
Ethnicity is a risk factor, as some ethnic groups are more prone to hypertension.
Weight can lead to hypertension. Obesity is a primary risk factor.
Alcohol and tobacco use in large quantities is a hypertension risk factor.
Gender is a factor because males are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.
Existing health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and high cholesterol can lead to high blood pressure.
Consistent hypertension can pose a serious risk for cardiovascular disease or a cardiovascular event. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to life-threatening complications. High blood pressure significantly increases the risk of a stroke or heart attack. Hypertension is the leading risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Other health complications due to hypertension include aneurysms, atheroma, and heart thickening.
A decrease in blood and oxygen flow can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, and irregular heartbeat which can lead to sudden death. Hypertension can block the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain, resulting in a stroke. Hypertension also can cause kidney damage and lead to kidney failure.
It is important to be aware of the complications that can arise from high blood pressure. Make sure to monitor your blood pressure and if you are experiencing consistent high blood pressure, call us today.
How to lower your blood pressure
Several factors that affect your blood pressure can be controlled. Your doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes in order to lower your blood pressure.
These changes include:
- Weight loss
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce and manage stress
- Reduce sodium intake
- Limit foods high in saturated fats
- Eliminate trans fat in your diet
- Eat foods rich in potassium
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
It is recommended to get regular, consistent physical exercise for at least 150 minutes per week for moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of high-intensity exercise. Exercising 5 days per week is recommended.
If these lifestyle changes do not lower your blood pressure, you may also be prescribed a combination of blood pressure medication to manage hypertension. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor may recommend checking your blood pressure more frequently. While you can check your blood pressure at home, blood pressure monitoring by a health professional is important.
Get treatment for your hypertension
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, make an appointment with Cardiovascular Group to treat your high blood pressure. Our team of experienced doctors can help treat and prevent hypertension in patients. We diagnose and treat each type of hypertension for heart disease prevention. We will come up with a treatment plan for you to manage your hypertension. We have offices throughout the north metropolitan Atlanta area, including Lawrenceville, Snellville, Dacula, and Johns Creek. Visit our locations page to see all of our offices.