What Causes High Blood Pressure
Food, medicine, lifestyle, age, and genetics can cause high blood pressure. Your doctor can help you find out what might be causing yours. Common factors that can lead to high blood pressure include:
- A diet high in salt, fat, and/or cholesterol.
- Chronic conditions such as kidney and hormone problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
- Family history, especially if your parents or other close relatives have high blood pressure.
- Lack of physical activity.
- Tobacco use or drinking too much alcohol.
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High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common heart condition in which a persons blood pressure remains abnormally elevated for a sustained period of time.
Almost half of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. But, since high blood pressure doesnt cause obvious signs or symptoms, many people dont even know they have it.
- If you have untreated high blood pressure, it can significantly increase your risk of:
- Sexual dysfunction
Because high blood pressure can lead to life-threatening health conditions, its one of the most common contributing causes of death in the U.S. every year.
Blood Pressure Is Linked To Other Medical Issues
High blood pressure can be the first indication of a serious underlying condition. When a patient comes in with high blood pressure, doctors will check their urine and kidney function do an electrocardiogram to check the size of the heart and look for lung changes.
Stress on the blood vessels makes people with hypertension more prone to heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and aneurysms. Correspondingly, chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, sleep apnea and high cholesterol increase the risk for developing high blood pressure.
In some women, pregnancy can contribute to high blood pressure, leading to preeclampsia. Postpartum blood pressure typically goes back to normal levels within six weeks. However, some women who have high blood pressure during more than one pregnancy may be more likely to develop high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases as they age.
Some of these medical issues can also cause spikes in high blood pressure .
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Lifestyle Changes Can Help Reduce Blood Pressure
What helps high blood pressure? Here are some healthy lifestyle changes you can try:
- Modify your diet with a focus on nutrition and a healthy body weight. Try to lose weight if you need to since weight loss can help improve your blood pressure.
- Consider following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan to help control your blood pressure. It emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It also includes fat-free or low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oil and other foods in limited amounts.
- Avoid processed foods and fast foods, which are typically high in sodium. Too much sodium intake can raise blood pressure.
- Reduce your caffeine intake.
- Try to get at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week.
- Steer clear of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.
- Manage your stress.
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
The most important factor in making lifestyle changes is consistency, Dr. Gideon said.
When To See A Doctor For High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often referred to as the silent killer because it has no symptoms, but it can put your health and life at serious risk. Blood pressure measures the force of your blood pushing against your arteries as it circulates in your body. If its high, it can damage the vessels over time, causing tiny tears that trap plaque and lead to blockages. Hypertension increases your risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke and other organ damage.
More than 100 million Americansalmost 1 in 3 have high blood pressure. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it and avoid serious health consequences.
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Relax Your Mind Body And Blood Vessels
If the notion that you can lower your blood pressure by sitting quietly and calming your mind sounds like hocus-pocus, you’re not alone. “I was pretty skeptical myself,” says Dr. Randall Zusman, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
But after collaborating on several studies with Dr. Herbert Benson, Harvard professor of mind-body medicine, Dr. Zusman is now a big fan of the technique, known as the relaxation response. Coined by Dr. Benson some 40 years ago, the term refers to the slowed breathing, lowered heart rate, and other physiological changes that occur during states of relaxation. Their research, which has included people with both treated and untreated high blood pressure, shows that regularly invoking the relaxation response can lower blood pressure.
Not everyone responds to the technique, but among responders, researchers documented genetic changes that may explain the benefit. “The relaxation response turns on genes involved in dilating the blood vessels and turns off genes associated with vascular inflammation and constriction,” says Dr. Zusman.
To practice the relaxation response, sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed. Relax your muscles and silently repeat a word, phrase, or short prayer of your choosing over and over. When stray thoughts interfere, let them come and go. Return to your word, phrase, or sound. Ideally, you should practice for 10 to 20 minutes every day, but even a few minutes can help.
How To Overcome White Coat Hypertension
Does going to the doctor just seriously freak you out? Like to the point where your palms are sweaty and you can feel your heart racing, even though you know youre in great hands and likely dont have anything to be worrying about?
While we hate to hear that because weyour physiciansseriously want you to be comfortable, we can assure you that youre not alone and that what youre feeling when you step into our offices is more common than you might think.
In fact, that sudden rise in blood pressure you experience when you go to the doctor is so common, it actually has a name: White Coat Hypertension or White Coat Syndrome. Its an anxiety-induced blood pressure spike while in a medical environment when high blood pressure is not otherwise an issue for the patient.
Weve gathered some tips you can try to keep calm and overcome your White Coat Hypertension, but first, allow us to explain what it is, what could be causing the syndrome, and why it might be a bigger deal than you light think.
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Living With High Blood Pressure
Controlling your high blood pressure is a lifelong commitment. You will always need to monitor your weight, make healthy food choices, exercise, learn to cope with stress, avoid smoking, and limit your alcohol intake. If you need medicine to control your high blood pressure, you will likely need it all your life.
Additionally, you will need to get used to regular blood pressure checks. Your doctor may want you to come to the office regularly. Or you may be asked to check your blood pressure at home and keep track of your numbers for your doctor. Some pharmacies and retail clinics have blood pressure machines on site. You can buy your own, automated arm blood pressure cuff for use at home. Your doctor may want you to check your blood pressure several times a day. Another option is to use an ambulatory blood pressure monitor.
Common Causes Of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure that develops gradually is called primary hypertension. It may not be possible to know the cause, but there are risk factors associated with it, including these lifestyle choices:
- Unhealthy diet: Too much sodium and not enough of the mineral potassium, which is found in high levels in bananas, potatoes, beans and yogurt, causes your body to retain fluid. Extra fluid in your blood vessels increases pressure within them and, with time, also makes your heart work harder to pump the blood.
- Obesity: Excess fat and weight makes your heart work harder to get blood and oxygen to your body, which can overload your cardiovascular system, leading to high blood pressure.
- Tobacco:Nicotine raises blood pressure and smoke produces carbon dioxide that lowers the oxygen in your blood. To get enough oxygen-rich blood to your body, your heart has to work harder, which also raises your blood pressure.
Excess Alcohol: Drinking raises your blood pressure. Current recommendations are no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men.
- Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle can raise your heart rate, which taxes your heart and raises your blood pressure.
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Monitor Your Blood Pressure Regularly
The best way to prevent complications and avoid problems is to recognize hypertension early.
Keep a log of your blood pressure readings and take it to your regular doctor appointments. This can help your doctor see any possible problems before the condition advances.
People with hypertension can deliver healthy babies despite having the condition. But it can be dangerous to both the birthing parent and baby if its not monitored closely and managed during the pregnancy.
People with high blood pressure who become pregnant are more likely to develop complications . For example, pregnant women with hypertension may experience decreased kidney function. Babies born to birthing parents with hypertension may have a low birth weight or be born prematurely.
Some people may develop hypertension during their pregnancies. Several types of high blood pressure problems can develop. The condition often reverses itself once the baby is born. Developing hypertension during pregnancy may increase your risk for developing hypertension later in life.
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Paul Munter, who co-wrote an editorial on the study, said this was an important study because it synthesizes the most contemporary data and shows the importance of out-of-office blood pressure monitoring.
Once people start blood pressure lowering medications, theyre going to be on it for the rest of their lives, and so its still useful to have the extra information on someones blood pressure before asking them to take medication for the rest of their life, said Munter, an associate dean for research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health.
Cohen and others are also hoping the research will encourage insurers to cover ambulatory blood pressure monitors, in which patients wear a belt around their body, attached to a cuff on their upper arm, and which take blood pressure readings periodically. Right now, most doctors rely on home blood pressure monitoring, in which doctors entrust patients to take their own readings. That can be flawed when patients take their own blood pressure readings, they often forget or remove measurements they dont like from the datasets, making the data less reliable.
But ambulatory monitors are expensive, and few insurers cover them.
Theres no such thing right now as a smartwatch, that can actually check a blood pressure without having a cuff, like an actual blood pressure cuff on it, Cohen said. And so its just very important to be a savvy consumer about these things.
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Blood Pressure Monitors: Step
Maintaining good health is vital to leading a healthy life. Several indicators, like sugar levels, heart rate, temperature, etc., help determine the underlying health condition. Among these, blood pressure numbers are primarily used by doctors to monitor the readings, know about the individual’s health and provide proper treatment.
Moreover, blood pressure readings tend to vary throughout the day. They depend on factors such as stress, hydration, etc. The measurement range indicates if the number is low, high or normal, along with evaluating other factors.
This article is a detailed guide for checking blood pressure manually at home and understanding the readings.
Causes Of High Blood Pressure
Although the exact cause is unknown, certain conditions, traits or habits may raise your risk for the condition. These are known as risk factors and include:
Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing HBP.
- Starting at age 18, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years. 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.
- Family history/Genetics
- African Americans and non-white Hispanic Americans are at higher risk for developing high blood pressure than any other group in the U.S.
Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.
- Excessive alcohol consumption over many years.
- Little to no physical activity
- Excessive amounts of salt in diet that excess the recommended amounts of 1,500 to 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
- Long history of smoking and/or drug abuse
- Extreme emotional stress
Other conditions that contribute to developing high blood pressure
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Why Is Your Blood Pressure Important
Your blood pressure is important because if it is too high, it affects the blood flow to your organs. Over the years, this increases your chances of developing heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, eye disease, erectile dysfunction and other conditions.
Very occasionally, people with very high blood pressure are at serious risk of problems and need urgent treatment in hospital to reduce the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Current Australian guidelines recommend that if you have persistent raised blood pressure over 160/100 mmHg, but are at low risk of having a stroke or heart attack, you should talk to your doctor or specialist about taking medication to lower your blood pressure.
For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
If youre over 18, you should have your blood pressure checked by your doctor at least every 2 years, or more often if advised.
What Is White Coat Hypertension How Do You Overcome It
If youve ever been a little anxious about a visit to your doctor, youre not alone. Some people, however, get more than just a little nervous when they enter the exam room: Their blood pressure rises at the doctors office, even though it was normal at home. This spike in a medical setting is known as white coat hypertension or white coat syndrome. As many as 1 in 3 people who have a high blood pressure reading at their doctors office might be affected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
But it might not just be a little pre-exam jitters. Learn what causes this rise in blood pressure, what to do about it, and find out if you should be concerned about the implications.
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Our Approach To Treating High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, our cardiologists specializing in hypertension can help get your blood pressure under control and ensure it stays well-managed over time.
Our cardiologists also have extensive experience managing treatment-resistant hypertension a condition in which your blood pressure remains high despite treatment with three or more antihypertensive medications.
Overcoming White Coat Syndrome
Knowing that your blood pressure might climb higher in your doctors office may actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy for some. In other words, the worry that youll have a high blood pressure reading may actually cause just enough anxiety to boost your blood pressure.
Before you strap on the blood pressure cuff, keep these tips in mind for a normal reading:
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Lifestyle Change Is Part Of Treatment
For all patients, making healthy lifestyle changes should be part of the treatment plan.
Lifestyle changes that have been proven to help lower your BP are to follow a healthy diet, like the DASH diet, get plenty of physical activity, maintain a healthy body weight, reduce your sodium intake, and moderate your alcohol consumption, said Dr. Sachdev. Talk to your doctor about some steps you can take to begin making lifestyle change and if there are any resources to help support you in making lasting change.
What Does A Blood Pressure Reading Look Like
Your blood pressure reading will consist of two numbers a high one and a low one, e.g. 120 and 80. It will be written like this: 120/80mmHg.The higher number is when your heart pumps and forces blood through your arteries. This is your systolic blood pressure, its when the pressure against your artery walls is highest. The lower number is when your heart is relaxed and your blood pressure is at its lowest. This is your diastolic blood pressure.
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How To Overcome White Coat Syndrome
Still worried that youre going to get a high blood pressure measurement at your next doctors appointment?
If you know that you dont normally have high blood pressurethat is, if you measure your blood pressure at home or in a nearby pharmacy and havent noticed an increaseyou might try these strategies:
- Prepare in advance. You might try some visualization exercises in which you mentally walk through the process of visiting your doctor and having your blood pressure measured.
- Take someone with you. You might feel calmer with a trusted friend or family member by your side.
- Do some deep breathing exercises. A few minutes of mindfulness meditation or even just some deep breathing can help you calm down and feel more centered.
- Bring a log of home blood pressure readings. Sit quietly for three minutes before taking the blood pressure. Have the blood pressure cuff at the level of your heart. Take your blood pressure three times back to back. Average the top number and average the bottom number . Write this averaged blood pressure down. Take your blood pressure twice a week at differing times of day.
- Acknowledge your anxiety. Let the nurse or office staff know that youre nervous. They might be able to help you out, or perhaps delay taking your vital signs until later in the visit when you may feel calmer. Or it might just make you feel less anxious to share this information with them.
The CDC recommends thesestrategies to help keep your blood pressure within healthy limits: