What Is Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood. When a health care professional measures your blood pressure, they use a blood pressure cuff around your arm that gradually tightens. The results are given in two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.
A blood pressure reading is given as the systolic blood pressure number over the diastolic blood pressure number. Blood pressure levels are classified based on those two numbers.
- Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is systolic blood pressure lower than 90 or diastolic blood pressure lower than 60. If you have low blood pressure, you may feel lightheaded, weak, dizzy, or even faint. It can be caused by not getting enough fluids, blood loss, some medical conditions, or medications, including those prescribed for high blood pressure.
- Normal blood pressure for most adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80.
- Elevated blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure between 120 and 129 with a diastolic pressure of less than 80.
- High blood pressure is defined as 130 or higher for the first number, or 80 or higher for the second number.
How Is High Blood Pressure Treated
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor probably will want you to make some lifestyle changes . These changes alone may lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease. If these changes do not lower your blood pressure, you may need to take medicine.
Do not smoke cigarettes or use any tobacco product.
Lose weight if you are overweight.
Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and is low in fat.
Limit the salt, alcohol, and caffeine you eat and drink.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Being overweight is a risk factor for having high blood pressure, and your risk increases further if you are obese.
There are two ways to check if you are overweight:
- Body Mass Index – This is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in metres squared. In the UK, people with a BMI of between 25 to 30 are overweight, and those with an index above 30 are classed as obese. People with a BMI of 40 or more are morbidly obese.
- Waist size – Using a measuring tape place the tape round your waist between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hip bone. The table below indicates how much your health might be at risk, your ethnicity should also be taken into account.
|Over 80 cm
The best way to tackle obesity is by reducing the amount of calories that you eat, and taking regular exercise. Your GP can provide you with further information and advice on how you can do this.
More about having a healthy weight
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Most People With Hypertension Feel Okay
Hypertension usually does not produce any symptoms, because the organs of the body can resist high blood pressure for a long time. Thats why its important to have regular medical examinations to make sure your blood pressure isnt creeping up as you grow older.High blood pressure over a period of time can contribute to many illnesses, including:
- heart attack
The effects of high blood pressure on the arteries are worsened by:
- cigarette smoking
- high levels of saturated fat in the diet
- high blood cholesterol
Responses to some types of stress may affect both blood pressure and changes in the arteries, but this remains scientifically uncertain.
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.
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Why You Should Pay Attention To Your Blood Pressure
Hypertension can wreak havoc on the body before alarming symptoms appear. Thats why regular checkups are a must.
Sometimes, Dr. Lioudis asks patients to check their blood pressure at different times of the day. Its the only way to spot masked hypertension. People with this condition have normal blood pressure in the doctors office, but high blood pressure at home.
We cant do anything for hypertension unless we know it exists, he says. Thats why we advise everyone to have their pressures checked at least yearly. They should also talk with their family doctor about stress, heart or kidney disease, family history of high blood pressure and any other potential contributing factor. By working together, you can bring your blood pressure under control.
This article originally appeared in Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor.
Excessive Salt Raises Blood Pressure
Too much sodium can cause water retention that puts increased pressure on your heart and blood vessels. People with high blood pressure and those at a high risk for developing hypertension, including adults over 50 and black men and women, should have no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily of salt.
Even people with normal levels should eat salt in moderation. Stick to no more than 2,300 mg of sodium , per day.
Most dietary sodium comes from processed foods. Rules of thumb are to choose foods with 5% or less of the daily value of sodium per serving and opt for fresh poultry, fish and lean meats, rather than canned, smoked or processed. Similarly, fresh or frozen vegetables are better than canned.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if people cut just 1/2 teaspoon of salt per day, it could help lower the number of new cases of heart disease per year by up to 120,000.
Further, potassium found in foods like sweet potatoes, spinach, bananas, oranges, low-fat milk and halibut can counterbalance the pressure-increasing effects of sodium by helping to rid the body of excess sodium.
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How To Understand High Blood Pressure Readings
Two numbers create a blood pressure reading. Systolic pressure indicates the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and pumps out blood. Diastolic pressure is the reading of the pressure in your arteries between beats of your heart.
Five categories define blood pressure readings for adults:
- Healthy: A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury .
- Elevated: The systolic number is between 120 and 129 mm Hg, and the diastolic number is less than 80 mm Hg. Doctors usually dont treat elevated blood pressure with medication. Instead, your doctor may encourage lifestyle changes to help lower your numbers.
- Stage 1 hypertension: The systolic number is between 130 and 139 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension: The systolic number is 140 mm Hg or higher, or the diastolic number is 90 mm Hg or higher.
- Hypertensive crisis: The systolic number is over 180 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is over 120 mm Hg. Blood pressure in this range requires urgent medical attention. If any symptoms like chest pain, headache, shortness of breath, or visual changes occur when blood pressure is this high, medical care in the emergency room is needed.
A blood pressure reading is taken with a pressure cuff. For an accurate reading, its important you have a cuff that fits. An ill-fitting cuff may deliver inaccurate readings.
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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Typical Changes With Age
Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure are important when it comes to diagnosing and monitoring hypertension. But they can change in different ways as you age.
Specifically, the systolic blood pressure will tend to rise as you get older, while the diastolic blood pressure tends to fall. This is true for people with pre-existing high blood pressure as well as those with no prior history of hypertension.
For those with pre-existing hypertension, these changes can occur even if the blood pressure is well controlled with antihypertensive drugs.
Older people diagnosed with high blood pressure often have isolated systolic hypertension. This is a type of high blood pressure where only the systolic blood pressure is elevated above 129 .
Blood Pressure Rising At Night Our Findings
Having blood pressure rising at night is a common concern that affects a considerable number of people. The real issue seems to be that not everyone actually knows why this happens and what to do about it. Many individuals have reported having their blood pressure starting to rise and heart rate increasing anytime between 4pm and 6pm. Some individuals are perplexed the more because this rise happens even at a time of supposed relaxation after work in front of the TV. Reports of readings such as 115/70 at a low rising to 177/113 at a high at night have been put up in hypertension forums. These changes typically resemble blood pressure rising from ideal levels to high blood pressure ranges within hours.
The concern with blood pressure rising at night is valid and must be seriously considered. Here is why. Blood pressure has a daily pattern which is that it dips at night and starts to increase before waking in the morning. The normal routine is for blood pressure to be lower at night and this is refereed to as nocturnal dipping. Individuals who have their blood pressure failing to dip at night are refereed to as nondippers.
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Blood Pressure Changes And Anxiety
Anxiety is the activation of your fight or flight system a system designed to keep you safe from harm when no danger is present. The fight or flight system causes a number of physical changes that would help you respond to a predator or threat if one was present, but can be distressing when they occur without that danger.
Different types of anxiety can affect your blood pressure in different ways. To understand how anxiety can impact blood pressure, first you must gain a basic understanding of blood pressure and how it fluctuates.
Finally, it is always important to remember that blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day due to exertion, diet, hydration, and more. Blood pressure is not constant even if you do not have any anxiety. So “high blood pressure” may not be high blood pressure at all, and may instead be a reading during one of these fluctuations.
You Shouldn’t Ignore White Coat Hypertension
Some people experience white coat hypertension, when blood pressure is elevated in the doctor’s office but not in other settings. These patients need to monitor their blood pressure at home or wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor that takes your blood pressure every 30 minutes for 24 hours.
While white coat hypertension was formerly considered simple nervousness, recent research suggests otherwise.
A study published in the journal Hypertension found that people with white coat hypertension are at a significantly greater risk for developing sustained high blood pressure than people who have normal blood pressure. One possible explanation is that people with white coat hypertension have a harder time managing stress and anxiety.
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What Can I Do To Prevent Or Manage High Blood Pressure
Many people with high blood pressure can lower their blood pressure into a healthy range or keep their numbers in a healthy range by making lifestyle changes. Talk with your health care team about
- Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week
- Not smoking
- Managing stress
In addition to making positive lifestyle changes, some people with high blood pressure need to take medicine to manage their blood pressure. Learn more about medicines for high blood pressure.
Talk with your health care team right away if you think you have high blood pressure or if youve been told you have high blood pressure but do not have it under control.
What Diet Helps Control High Blood Pressure
- Eat foods that are lower in fat, salt and calories, such as skim or 1% milk, fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole-grain rice and pasta.
- Use flavorings, spices and herbs to make foods tasty without using salt. The optimal recommendation for salt in your diet is to have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. Don’t forget that most restaurant foods and many processed and frozen foods contain high levels of salt. Use herbs and spices that do not contain salt in recipes to flavor your food. Dont add salt at the table.
- Avoid or cut down on foods high in fat or salt, such as butter and margarine, regular salad dressings, fatty meats, whole milk dairy products, fried foods, processed foods or fast foods and salted snacks.
- Ask your provider if you should increase potassium in your diet. Discuss the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet with your provider. The DASH diet emphasizes adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet while reducing the amount of sodium. Since its rich in fruits and vegetables, which are naturally lower in sodium than many other foods, the DASH diet makes it easier to eat less salt and sodium.
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Possible Risk Factors Resulting In Non
There are several risk factors that may result in your blood pressure rising at night. Night shift work is one of them as already shown by the study we alluded to above. Stress and anxiety are also other factors that may result in non-dipping blood pressure at night. Some individuals have found relief through meditation. Life style related issues such as the use of tobacco also increases the risk of elevated blood pressure at nighttime. Lastly, for individuals on high blood pressure medications, taking medication that does not cover the entire 24-hrs is also a possible cause of nighttime high blood pressure. While many people conclude they have blood pressure which rises at night based on personal home measurement of blood pressure, to get a professional diagnosis it is important to go under a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring test.
Why Does Blood Pressure Change
Remember that there are three factors controlling blood pressure at any one time:
- The force and rate of the heart contraction.
- The diameter of the blood vessels throughout the body.
- The volume and even viscosity of the blood.
It is further influenced by hormones, electrolytes and nerve impulses. The activity of all these factors collectively determine blood pressure. The entire system is complex and the body has to cater for changes to keep your body working optimally. Your blood pressure changes when you sit down, stand up or lie flat. It drops when you sleep soundly. It can fluctuate in hot or cold weather.
Here are 6 common reasons for a sudden increase in blood pressure.
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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.
Blood Pressure And Ageing
With advancing years, the arteries tend to become more rigid . This may change a persons blood pressure pattern, with a higher systolic pressure and a lower diastolic pressure. The higher systolic pressure is important because it can further accelerate the rigidity of the arteries. This state is referred to as isolated systolic hypertension. Although these changes are due to ageing, this is not a normal state and may need medication to control the systolic pressures.
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