Blood Pressure Is Mostly A Silent Disease
Unfortunately, high blood pressure can happen without feeling any abnormal symptoms.
Moderate or severe headaches, anxiety, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, palpitations, or feeling of pulsations in the neck are some signs of high blood pressure. Often, these are late signs that high blood pressure has existed for some time, therefore annual checks are recommended for all adults.
Stiffening Of The Arteries
Some physicians consider the most authentic form of pseudo-resistant hypertension to be caused by stiffened brachial arteries that prevent the blood pressure cuff from obtaining a true reading. If your doctor suspects this form of pseudo-resistant hypertension, they might consider other ways to measure your blood pressure.
How Long You Should Wait Between Blood Pressure Readings
The American College of Cardiology and the new blood pressure guidelines recommend taking at least 2 to 3 readings, 1 minute apart . If you measure your blood pressure 2 times a day, this will equal taking your pressure 4-6 times a day in total. This wouldnt be considered taking your blood pressure too often.
During the 1 minute break between readings, do not do anything that can alter your blood pressure. The things you should avoid before taking your blood pressure, should also be avoided between the 2 or 3 measurements. These activities may include the following:
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Stroke And Brain Problems
High blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or be blocked, causing a stroke. Brain cells die during a stroke because they do not get enough oxygen. Stroke can cause serious disabilities in speech, movement, and other basic activities. A stroke can also kill you.
Having high blood pressure, especially in midlife, is linked to having poorer cognitive function and dementia later in life. Learn more about the link between high blood pressure and dementia from the National Institutes of Healths Mind Your Risks®external icon campaign.
Tests For High Blood Pressure
When you have a doctors appointment, a nurse, medical assistant, or doctor typically checks your blood pressure. They routinely check blood pressure because there arent symptoms of high blood pressure. The only way to catch it is to test it.
A blood pressure machine, officially called a sphygmomanometer, is used to test for high blood pressure. The blood pressure cuff fits around your arm. Doctors or nurses might use a manual blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope to measure your blood pressure. At home, you can use an electronic blood pressure monitor. It only takes a minute or so to do the test.
When measuring blood pressure, youll observe two numbers:
- Systolic: top number indicating pressure inside the artery when the heart is contracting
- Diastolic: bottom number indicating the pressure of blood inside the arteries when the heart is filling
You have high blood pressure if you have a systolic reading of 140 mm Hg or higher and a diastolic reading of 90 mm Hg or higher. In this case, the nurse or doctor might wait a few minutes and check your blood pressure again. If its still high, you might be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home.
High blood pressure can be a sign of another medical condition. Untreated high blood pressure can cause organ damage. To assess your health properly, a doctor might also order a urine test, blood tests, or an electrocardiogram to check your heart health.
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Quitting Smoking And Limiting Alcohol
If youre a smoker and have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will most likely advise you to quit. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the bodys tissues and harden blood vessel walls.
If you regularly consume too much alcohol or have an alcohol dependency, seek help to reduce the amount you drink or stop altogether. Drinking alcohol in excess can raise blood pressure.
If you have risk factors for hypertension, you can take steps now to lower your risk for the condition and its complications.
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.
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Secondary Hypertension Treatment Options
If your doctor discovers an underlying issue causing your hypertension, treatment will focus on that other condition. For example, if a medication youve started taking is causing increased blood pressure, your doctor will try other medications that dont have this side effect.
Sometimes, hypertension is persistent despite treatment for the underlying cause. In this case, your doctor may work with you to develop lifestyle changes and prescribe medications to help reduce your blood pressure.
Treatment plans for hypertension often evolve. What worked at first may become less useful over time. Your doctor will continue to work with you to refine your treatment.
What Do The Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
When blood pressure is measured, the result is given as two numbers, such as 120/80. The first number is the amount of force used when the heart beats . The second number is the pressure in the arteries between heart beats . Pressures are measured in millimeters of mercury . High blood pressure is defined as pressures above 140/90 for a period of time. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic pressure from 120139 millimeters of mercury or a diastolic pressure from 8089 mm Hg. Because blood pressure changes often, your health care provider will check it on several different days before deciding whether your blood pressure is too high. Blood pressure is considered high when it is elevated above 140/90 for a period of time. For people with chronic kidney disease, the recommended level is below 130/80.
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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:
- poor diet
- 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.
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.
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Negative Effects Of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one out of every three American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Because high blood pressure is so common, it might be tempting to assume that its no big deal. But the truth is, that when left untreated, high blood pressure can put you at risk for potentially life-threatening complications.
Here are eight ways that uncontrolled high blood pressure can negatively affect your health:
Regular Blood Pressure Checks If Diagnosed With High Blood Pressure
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your blood pressure will need to be closely monitored until it is brought under control.
After your blood pressure has been controlled, your GP or practice nurse will measure your blood pressure at agreed regular intervals .
It is important you attend these appointments to ensure your blood pressure is being maintained within an acceptable range.
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What Are The Types Of High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure with no known single cause, this is called essential hypertension or primary hypertension. Most people have this type of hypertension. If you have high blood pressure which is caused by another health problem, this is known as secondary hypertension, and treating the cause should bring your blood pressure back down to normal.
Signs Of High Blood Pressure
Many adults have high blood pressure, but they arent aware of it. Thats why medical experts call hypertension a silent condition. The only way to know for sure if you have high blood pressure is to measure it regularly. You can do this at home or during a visit to your doctors office.
Although not directly caused by hypertension, there are a few symptoms that can indirectly result from high blood pressure numbers. These include:
Blood spots in the eyes
Having red spots in your eyes is most commonly seen in individuals with high blood pressure or diabetes. Diabetes and high blood pressure do not cause blood spots, however. An ophthalmologist can best determine if untreated hypertension is causing optic nerve damage, leading to blood spots in the eyes.
Lots of internal and external factors can cause facial flushing, like eating spicy foods, drinking hot drinks, wind, stress, hormone fluctuation, and skincare products. Your face can flush when you have higher than normal blood pressure, but hypertension isnt causing facial flushing.
Early warning signs of a stroke include sudden onset of dizziness, loss of balance, and trouble walking. High blood pressure is the top risk factor for stroke, so its possible for high blood pressure and dizziness to be related. Dizziness is also a common side effect of some blood pressure medications.
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Symptoms In Teens And People In Their Early 20s
Teenagers can develop high blood pressure due to obesity or an underlying medical condition.
Possible medical factors
- endocrine disease, which affects the hormones
- vascular disease, which affects the blood vessels
- a neurological condition
These conditions may have symptoms of their own.
The symptoms of high blood pressure, if they occur, will be the same as for other groups.
A 2021 study notes that, while death rates from cardiovascular disease have fallen among older adults, the reduction has been less dramatic in those aged 1839 years. The author suggests there are lower rates of awareness, treatment, and management of high blood pressure in those aged 2039. With this in mind, they call for more effective identification of high blood pressure in these age groups to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems later in life.
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, its 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 its still high and youre worried, contact your nurse or GP.
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What Medications Are Used To Treat High Blood Pressure
Four classes of high blood pressure medications are considered first line when starting treatment. Sometimes other medications are coupled with these first-line drugs to better control your high blood pressure. First-line, pressure-lowering medications are:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors block the production of the angiotensin II hormone, which the body naturally uses to control blood pressure. When angiotensin II is blocked, your blood vessels dont narrow. Examples: lisinopril , enalapril or captopril.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers block this same hormone from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. ARBs work the same way as ACE inhibitors to keep blood vessels from narrowing. Examples: metoprolol , valsartan or losartan.
- Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels, allowing these vessels to relax. Examples: amlodipine , nifedipine , diltiazem .
- Diuretics flush excess sodium from your body, reducing the amount of fluid in your blood. Diuretics are often used with other high blood pressure medicines, sometimes in one combined pill. Examples: indapamide, hydrochlorothiazide or chlorothiazide.
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-fat diet
- 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.
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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.
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When To See A Doctor For High Blood Pressure
Since the majority of individuals living with hypertension dont experience symptoms, its likely youll find out about your high blood pressure numbers during a doctors appointment. After being diagnosed with hypertension, you should continue to see your doctor, especially if you cant control your blood pressure with prescribed medication or recommended lifestyle changes.
Youre experiencing a hypertensive crisis
You should also see or contact your doctor if you experience a related high blood pressure event called a hypertensive crisis. There are two main types of hypertensive crises:
A hypertensive emergency is a rare medical emergency where your blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or higher and you are experiencing symptoms of target organ damage. If this happens to you, call emergency medical services right away.
Symptoms of target organ damage include:
- Difficulty speaking
If youre experiencing elevated blood pressure of 180/120 mm Hg or higher but are not experiencing any of the above symptoms, this is called hypertensive urgency. Wait five minutes and take your blood pressure a second time. If it is just as high, call your doctors office. Your doctor might want to adjust your medications. Hypertensive urgency does not usually result in hospitalization.
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How To Lower Blood Pressure
Treatment will depend on several factors, including how high the blood pressure is and the risk of cardiovascular disease or a stroke.
The doctor will recommend different treatments as blood pressure increases. For slightly high blood pressure, they may suggest making lifestyle changes and monitoring the blood pressure.
If blood pressure is high, they will recommend medication. The options may change over time, according to how severe the hypertension is and whether complications arise, such as kidney disease. Some people may also need a combination of several different medications.