High blood pressure is caused by an increase in the pressure of the blood as it flows through your blood vessels. It is a severe condition that you should take seriously. (1)
However, high blood pressure is more common than you think.
Over 50% of adults have this type of condition, and many are not aware of it. Therefore, you must have your blood pressure checked.
High blood pressure – the silent killer
The concern about high blood pressure is that it is a silent killer. The reason for this is that it does not have any apparent symptoms. Certain physical traits and lifestyle choices can increase the risk of the condition.
If it is left untreated, then high blood pressure can damage the circulatory system. Along with untreated high blood pressure comes the risk of many problems. This includes a heart attack, a stroke, which can lead to death as well as other health problems.
Understand high blood pressure
High blood pressure is something we should think about. Therefore, we need to understand more about high blood pressure and how to detect it.
There are many things that we should be aware of when it comes to high blood pressure.
As it can kill, we should focus on the choices we make. All of which can reduce the risk of death and improve our health at the same time.
The causes of high blood pressure
High blood pressure relates to the force that is placed on the walls of the arteries. The heart pumps blood around the body. (2)
As it does, it creates an element of pressure. However, if you suffer from high blood pressure, then there will be an increase in this force.
So, the causes of high blood pressure fall into two categories.
- Essential High Blood Pressure is where no established reason has been found.
- Secondary High Blood Pressure results from another health issue.
While there is no cause for essential high blood pressure, there are factors that could play a part.
Risk factors of essential and secondary high blood pressure:
- Family history;
- Ethnic background;
- Obesity and being overweight;
- Physical inactivity;
- Alcohol Consumption;
- High cholesterol;
- Mental stress;
- Sleep apnea. (3)
Signs and symptoms
High blood pressure can go undetected. Therefore, it is common for people not to experience any symptoms. This is why it is given the label “Silent Killer.”
When blood pressures reach around 180/120, we class it as a hypertensive crisis. As a result, it becomes an emergency health problem. When it reaches this stage, it can present several symptoms in the form of:
- Heart Palpitation
A diagnosis of high blood pressure will come with frequent checks. Even if you think that you do not suffer from high blood pressure, you should still have a check-up.
As there are no symptoms, you might find that you suffer from it. However, if you identify with the risk factors above, then you should have a frequent check-ups.
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What are the complications of high blood pressure?
If high blood pressure goes untreated, then it can prove fatal. However, there is a range of other complications that come with it, including:
- Heart Attack
- Heart Failure
- Stroke (4)
- Blood Clots
- Kidney Disease
- Memory Loss
- Reduction in brain function
- Metabolic Syndrome
Diagnosing high blood pressure
Measuring blood pressure consists of two parts. (5)
The first is systolic pressure, which is the pressure when the heart contracts. The other is Diastolic Pressure, which is the pressure in between each heartbeat. (6)
To diagnose high blood pressure, there are several tests that a doctor can carry out.
Using a sphygmomanometer
This is an inflatable cuff that fits the upper arm. It then inflates to restrict the flow of blood. While this happens, a mercury or mechanical manometer measures blood pressure.
This can either be done manually or using a digital monitor. Others, as well, can help to diagnose high blood pressure.
Urine tests and blood tests can identify an underlying cause. This could be a problem with the kidneys, infection, or even diabetes.
An exercise stress test is standard for those who are on the borderline of hypertension. This looks at how the cardiovascular system responds to exercise.
However, a high blood pressure diagnosis should be made before the test.
An Electrocardiogram or ECG will test the electrical activity within the hearing. This is a test that we use for those who are at risk of heart problems.
Doctors will identify the ECG baseline and compare it to other ECG results. This then makes it possible to identify any changes. This could then indicate coronary artery disease or other problems.
Occasionally, individuals will require Holter monitoring. (7)
Patients will have to wear a portable ECG device. This can then monitor blood pressure at certain times of the day.
Finally, an echocardiogram can look at the heart as it moves. It can help to identify blood clots, fluid around the heart or defective heart valves. All of which can cause high blood pressure.
Treating high blood pressure
How we treat blood pressure depends on several things. This can range from the severity as well as the risks of developing other health problems.
If blood pressure is slightly high, then a doctor will recommend lifestyle changes.
If it is moderately high, and there is a risk of cardiovascular disease, then medication might be needed. Along with medication, patients will need to make lifestyle changes.
If high blood pressure is severe, then there will be a change to medication or possibly surgery depending on whether there is an underlying condition or not.
While medication can help, a poor diet will lead to further problems. Therefore, as mentioned, reducing salt can make a difference in high blood pressure. (8)
Just by cutting down on salt, you could avoid medication altogether. It is not just about the salt that you add to your food but also the salt that comes into your diet. (9)
So, if you are cooking or are eating a ready meal, check the labels and try to avoid salt altogether.
Another thing you should aim to do is eat more fruit and vegetables. Eating a minimum of five portions a day can help you to achieve a healthier diet and ultimately lower blood pressure.
You can vary your intake, but make sure you consider sugar, fats, and salt.
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Your weight can also cause problems with your blood pressure. Therefore, if you can lose weight, your blood pressure will drop. This will help to reduce further help problems. However, it is crucial to lose weight in the right way.
So aim for a low-fat and low-calorie diet while increasing the amount you exercise. Take it slow, and over time, you will lose weight, in turn, lowering your blood pressure.
Cut back on alcohol and smoking
When it comes to drinking, too much can cause your blood pressure to rise. (10)
Currently, the limits are 14 units per week with a unit being around half a pint of beer or cider, a small glass of wine, or a single measure of spirits. If you can reduce your alcohol intake, then it can help to keep your blood pressure down.
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This is one of the more straightforward ways to keep your blood pressure down. (11)
It is about getting active. Therefore, you should aim to jog or go on a brisk walk for 30 minutes five times a week. An active lifestyle brings with it many benefits, and lower blood pressure is one.
If you cannot fit in 30 minutes, then even 15 minutes can make a difference to high blood pressure. It is all about being active and getting the body moving to help you lose weight, stay fit, and keep blood pressure down.
Stress and anxiety can cause high blood pressure. Therefore, relaxation techniques can work. This can range from yoga to meditation and breathing exercises. If these are done correctly, then they can reduce blood pressure.
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High blood pressure is a silent killer. It can present no symptoms or signs until it is too late. Therefore, we must understand the symptoms or signs when they do arrive.
Along with this, we should also make sure we take care of ourselves. A healthy lifestyle can make a difference and help to lower blood pressure.
Therefore, through regular checks and taking care of ourselves, we can reduce high blood pressure and significantly reduce the risks.
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