Facts About High Blood Pressure
There’s a good reason why every doctor’s appointment starts with a blood pressure check. While one in three American adults has high blood pressure, about 20% of people are unaware that they have it because it is largely symptomless.
In fact, most people find out they have high blood pressure during a routine office visit.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is when that force is too high and begins harming the body. If left untreated, it willl eventually cause damage to the heart and blood vessels.
Your blood pressure is measured in two numbers: The top systolic blood pressure measures the force pushing against artery walls when the heart is contracting. The bottom diastolic blood pressure measures pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats.
Normal blood pressure levels are 120 mmHg/80 mmHg or lower. At risk levels are 120-139 mmHg/80-89 mmHg. Readings of 140 mmHg/90 mmHg or higher are defined as high blood pressure.
Here are six other things you should know about high blood pressure.
How Common Is High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a common condition, it is estimated that 18% of adult men and 13% of adult women have high blood pressure but are not getting treatment for it.
In 90-95% of cases, there is no single identifiable reason for a rise in blood pressure. But all available evidence shows that lifestyle plays a significant role in regulating your blood pressure.
Risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- being overweight
- excessive alcohol consumption.
Also, for reasons not fully understood, people of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian origin are more likely to develop high blood pressure than other ethnic groups.
Risks Of High Blood Pressure
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- are of black African or black Caribbean descent
- live in a deprived area
Making healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it’s already high.
Don’t Miss: What Does Diastolic Blood Pressure Measure
Foods For High Blood Pressure
If you are eating a whole foods plant-based diet and are still struggling with high blood pressure, there are certain foods you can incorporate into your diet.
A few tablespoons of ground flaxseed a day has been shown to greatly reduce blood pressure. In this study, flaxseed was found to be 2 to 3 times more powerful than an exercise program.
Hibiscus tea also seems to be effective at reducing blood pressure. Although, more research is needed.
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed
High blood pressure is diagnosed with a blood pressure monitor. This is a common test for all doctor visits. A nurse will place a band around your arm. The band is attached to a small pump and a meter. He or she will squeeze the pump. It will feel tight around your arm. Then he or she will stop and watch the meter. This provides the nurse with 2 numbers that make up your blood pressure. The top number is your systolic reading . The bottom number is your diastolic reading . You may also hear the doctor or nurse say a blood pressure is 120 over 80.
- Normal blood pressure is less than 120 on top and less than 80 on the bottom.
- Prehypertension levels are 120-139 on top and 80-89 on the bottom.
- High blood pressure, stage 1 is 140-159 on top and 90-99 on the bottom.
- High blood pressure, stage 2 is 160 or higher on top and 100 and over on the bottom.
The higher your blood pressure is, the more often you need to have it checked. After age 18, have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. Do it more often if you have had high blood pressure in the past.
Also Check: Blood Pressure 160/110 How Bad Is It
Primary High Blood Pressure
While the specific cause of primary high blood pressure remains unknown, there is compelling evidence to suggest that a number of risk factors increase your chances of developing the condition.
These risk factors include:
- age – the risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you get older
- a family history of high blood pressure – the condition seems to run in families
- being of Afro-Caribbean or South Asian origin
- high amount of salt in your diet
- lack of exercise
- excessive alcohol consumption
A number of health conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease, have also been linked to an increase risk of developing primary high blood pressure.
When To See A Doctor
Most of the time, high blood pressure doesnât cause headaches or nosebleeds. But, this can happen in a hypertensive crisis when blood pressure is above 180/120. If your blood pressure is extremely high and you have these symptoms, rest for 5 minutes and check again. If your blood pressure is still unusually high, itâs a medical emergency. Call 911.
Itâs important to remember that high blood pressure doesnât usually have symptoms. So, everyone should get it checked regularly. The American Heart Association recommends that adults with normal blood pressure should get blood pressure checked each year at routine health visits. You may also have it checked at a health resource fair or other locations in your community.
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor might recommend that you monitor it more often at home. At-home monitors may work better than store-based machines. Your doctor will also recommend making lifestyle changes along with medications to lower your blood pressure.
How Can You Manage Your High Blood Pressure
Treatment of high blood pressure often starts with lifestyle changes, including decreasing salt in your diet, losing weight if necessary, stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol use, and regular exercise.
In addition to lifestyle changes, medications are often used to lower blood pressure. There are several types of medications that treat high blood pressure with each type of medication having benefits and risks that should be carefully weighed by you and your health care provider. Most people take more than one medication in order to bring their blood pressure down to their treatment goal.
Your blood pressure medication should begin to work within days. However, because high blood pressure is a long-lasting medical condition that often has little or no symptoms, remembering to take your medications can be a challenge. Combination medicines, long-acting or once-a-day medications, may be used to decrease the burden of taking numerous medications and help ensure medications regularly. Once started, the medication should be used until your doctor tells you to stop.
Controlling your blood pressure should be part of a healthy living plan and lifelong task. The damage that high blood pressure causes your internal organs does not cause any symptoms until serious damage has been done.
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 .
Don’t Miss: What Can Make Your Blood Pressure Go Down
What Are The Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure
Most people who have high blood pressure do not have symptoms. This is why its sometimes called the silent killer. It is very important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
Some people experience headaches, nosebleeds, or shortness of breath with high blood pressure. However, those symptoms can mimic many other things . Usually, these symptoms occur once blood pressure has reached a dangerously high level over a period of time.
Home Blood Pressure Monitoring
Some people buy their own blood pressure monitor to use at home. This means you can measure your blood pressure on an ongoing basis.
The blood pressure readings you do at home are as good as those done by your doctor.
If you decide to buy one, it’s important to get the correct cuff size. If the cuff is too big or too small, it can give an inaccurate reading.
If you take your own blood pressure and get an unusually high reading, take it a second time after at least five minutes. If it’s still high and you’re worried, contact your nurse or GP.
Read Also: What To Do When You Have Low Blood Pressure
What’s The Impact Of Having High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases such as:
- coronary heart disease – where the main arteries that supply your heart become clogged up with plaques
- strokes – a serious condition where the blood supply to your brain is interrupted
- heart attacks – a serious condition where the blood supply to part of your heart is blocked
Diabetes and kidney disease are also linked to high blood pressure complications.
Drink Alcohol In Moderation
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will increase your blood pressure and raise the cholesterol levels in your blood.
Sticking to the recommended amounts of alcohol consumption is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.
The recommended daily limits of alcohol consumption are:
- 3 to 4 units of alcohol for men
- 2 to 3 units of alcohol for women.
A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal-strength lager, a small glass of wine or a pub measure or spirits.
More about drinking alcohol reponsibly
Read Also: How Do Blood Pressure Monitors Work
Good Sleep Can Prevent And Manage High Blood Pressure
Most people experience a dip in blood pressure during the deepest stage of sleep , which is the body’s normal and healthy reaction to sleep. Not having that nighttime dip is a risk factor for heart disease and may increase daytime blood pressure.
Typically people spend 90 minutes to two hours in slow wave sleep per night. A recent study published in Hypertension found that men who got less slow wave sleep each night were a higher risk for hypertension than men who got more deep sleep.
While sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, and age can both affect the amount of deep sleep you get, there are steps you can take to ensure a good night’s sleep. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and being more active during the day can help improve the quality of your sleep.
Set Weight Loss Goals
If your doctor has recommended you lose weight, talk with them about an optimal weight loss goal for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a weight loss goal of one to two pounds a week. This can be achieved through a more nutritious diet and increased physical exercise.
Employing the help of a trainer or fitness app, and possibly even a dietician, are all methods to help you learn how to make the best choices for your body and your lifestyle.
Also Check: How To Decrease Blood Pressure Fast
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypertension
Hypertension is generally a silent condition. Many people wont experience any symptoms. It may take years or even decades for the condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become obvious. Even then, these symptoms may be attributed to other issues.
of severe hypertension can include:
According to the American Heart Association , contrary to popular thought, severe hypertension doesnt typically cause nosebleeds or headaches except when someone is in hypertensive crisis.
The best way to know if you have hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings. Most doctors offices take a blood pressure reading at every appointment.
If you only have a yearly physical, talk with your doctor about your risks for hypertension and other readings you may need to help you watch your blood pressure.
For example, if you have a family history of heart disease or have risk factors for developing the condition, your doctor may recommend that you have your blood pressure checked twice a year. This helps you and your doctor stay on top of any possible issues before they become problematic.
There are two types of hypertension. Each type has a different cause.
Salt Intake And High Blood Pressure
Reducing the amount of salt you eat can also help to manage or even avoid high blood pressure. To help reduce your salt intake:
- Ensure your diet consists of wholefoods including vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, lean meat and poultry, fish and seafood, legumes, unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Avoid packaged and processed foods that are high in salt. You cant see the salt in these foods, so you dont know how much salt you are having. Get into the habit of checking food labels.
- Choose low-salt food where possible. If you cant find low-salt products, those with moderate amounts of salt are ok too. Another simple alternative is to look for labels with low salt, salt reduced or no added salt.
- Avoid adding salt to cooking or at the table flavour meals with herbs and spices instead.
Recommended Reading: How Can You Raise Your Blood Pressure
Regular Blood Pressure Checks For Over Over 40’s
The only way to find out whether you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Ask your GP when you are next due for yours to be checked.
Blood pressure checks are usually available on request at most GP surgeries and health clinics. Some surgeries have home monitoring devices available, which you may be able to use at the time of blood pressure medication start up or change. Many also have a policy of arranging regular checks for you.
Adults who are over 40 and have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure should have their blood pressure checked at least once every five years. However, your blood pressure should ideally be checked more frequently, particularly if you have any contributory risk factors.
Diagnosing High Or Low Blood Pressure
Only one of your numbers needs to be higher than it should be to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, and only one needs to be lower than it should be to be diagnosed with low blood pressure.
So if your top number is over 140 or the bottom number is over 90, you may be diagnosed with , regardless of the other number. If your top number is under 90 or your bottom number is under 60, you may be diagnosed with . Use the to see where your numbers sit.
If your top number is consistently higher than 140mmHg, but the bottom number is healthy – this is known as Isolated Systolic Hypertension. If the bottom number is consistently higher than 90mmHg but the top number is healthy – this is known as Isolated Diastolic Hypertension.
Making sure your readings arent a one-off
A single high reading doesnt necessarily mean you have high blood pressure, as many things can affect your blood pressure throughout the day, such as the temperature, when you last ate, and if youre feeling stressed.
Your doctor or nurse will probably want to measure your blood pressure a number of times over a few weeks to make sure the reading wasnt just a one off and that your blood pressure stays high over time.
Read about how , getting a , the you might have if you have a high blood pressure reading, and .
Don’t Miss: Does Drinking Water Lower Your Blood Pressure
How Can I Measure My Blood Pressure At Home
Talk with your health care team about regularly measuring your blood pressure at home, also called self-measured blood pressure monitoring.
SMBP means you regularly use a personal blood pressure measurement device away from a doctors office or hospitalusually at home. These blood pressure monitors are easy and safe to use. A health care team member can show you how to use one if you need help.
Evidence shows that people with high blood pressure are more likely to lower their blood pressure if they use SMBP combined with support from their health care team than if they dont use SMBP.3
Use these additional tips for SMBP:4
- Use a blood pressure log to record your blood pressure measurements.
- Take your blood pressure at the same time every day.
- Take at least two readings, 1 or 2 minutes apart.
How Can I Be More Active
- Check first with your healthcare provider before increasing your physical activity. Ask your provider what type and amount of exercise is right for you.
- Choose aerobic activities such as walking, biking or swimming.
- Start slowly and increase activity gradually. Aim for a regular routine of activity five times a week for 30 to 45 minutes each session.
Recommended Reading: When To Worry About Low Blood Pressure