Hypertension or high blood pressure is known as a “silent killer.” This means that many people don’t know they have it, but they can still suffer severe consequences. Hypertension is characterized by a consistent high pressure when the blood pushes through the blood vessels. This can be caused by the walls of the arteries becoming clogged or narrower through a buildup of plaque. This buildup can be caused by a fatty, high-cholesterol diet as well as elevated sodium intake. Obesity and advanced age can be causes of hypertension, although the problem can exist among those who are relatively young and are of normal weight. Genetics plays a role in the development of hypertension, but there is no reason to be fatalistic about it; lifestyle changes such as cutting back on saturated fat, increasing exercise, and reducing stress can lower blood pressure and help prevent hypertension from getting out of control. It is important for those over the age of 40 to regularly get their blood pressure tested, particularly if they have a family history of hypertension. In addition to lifestyle changes, doctors may prescribe medications to help treat hypertension.
1. High blood pressure starts in the heart and the arteries
The doctor may detect that you have high blood pressure, but by then, you may already have had an issue with your arteries for some time. Before hypertension shows up on medical exams, it begins with the arteries and the heart. Unless the arteries are viewed by medical staff, you may not realize that there is a buildup forming on the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the channels of the vessels and when blood flows through them with every heartbeat, there is increased pressure. A buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries is called atherosclerosis, which is a leading cause of hypertension.
2. Hypertension may not have any symptoms
Hypertension is called “the silent killer” for good reason. There are usually no signs of high blood pressure. We cannot usually sense what is going on with our blood vessels and don’t know if there is plaque buildup unless we can actually see it.
The fact that hypertension often goes undetected is one reason why it can be a dangerous condition. Many people who don’t feel anything is wrong with them can suddenly have debilitating or fatal heart attacks and strokes.
That is one reason why it is important to have blood pressure tested regularly, particularly if you have a genetic predisposition toward hypertension.
3. It is important to have your blood pressure tested
During a routine checkup, it is essential that your doctor will do a blood pressure test. Most adults have already had these tests at least some point in their life, but it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with what the numbers actually mean. There are two numbers, an “upper” and “lower” number.
The upper number is systolic blood pressure which measures the amount of pressure on the walls of your blood vessels when the heartbeats. Diastolic measures blood pressure between beats. Normal blood pressure has a systolic number of less than 120 and a diastolic number of lower than 80.
The numbers at the beginning phase of hypertension are between 130-139 and 80-89.
4. There is a significant difference between blood pressure and pulse
Measuring both blood pressure and the pulse is essential for gauging your general health and looking for early signs of hypertension, but understanding the difference between the two concepts is also important. Blood pressure measures the amount of pressure moving through your blood vessels when your heart is beating and at rest. Pulse measures the number of beats per minute.
There is often a misunderstanding that a higher pulse can create higher blood pressure. During exercise, for instance, the blood vessels dilate to accommodate the higher pulse.
Therefore, there is no need to worry that exercise can increase pressure on your vessels. On the contrary, regular exercise can reduce blood pressure.
5. Resistant hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that can be hard to treat
The good news about treating hypertension is that blood pressure can be lowered significantly through lifestyle changes. Many people find that their blood pressure is lowered by cutting out high-fat foods and engaging in regular exercise.
However, there are many cases in which blood pressure won’t budge regardless of these strategies. This may be a sign of resistant hypertension, which may be caused by underlying issues.
One problem may be an abnormality in the hormone that controls blood pressure. If nothing you do seems to lower your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication.
6. Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the heart-lung system
When many people talk about high blood pressure, they are referring to the amount of pressure exerted on vessels by blood flow. This is systemic blood pressure. Blood pressure problems arising in the heart-to-lung connection are pulmonary hypertension.
This means that the heart has to use excessive pressure to push blood through the vessels in the lungs. The connection between the heart and the lungs is important since the heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body and receives it from the vessels in the lungs.
When you have your systemic blood pressure check, ask your doctor to test your pulmonary blood pressure levels as well.
7. Genetics is not necessarily destiny when it comes to high blood pressure
Genetics is a factor in many aspects of our physical and mental health. Hypertension tends to run in families, but those who have parents who suffer from hypertension need not despair. Even when the cause of hypertension lies in the genes, there are lifestyle changes that can still alleviate symptoms and keep your arteries clear.
In fact, those who have a predisposition to developing hypertension should be extra careful about what they eat and their exercise regimen. What may be assumed to be a genetic link can actually be caused by a family’s lifestyle.
For instance, your family may have developed hypertension because of their diet and lifestyle rather than because of genes.
8. Lowering salt intake can help lower blood pressure
Many people realize that eating a diet low in sodium can prevent or treat hypertension. Some believe that simply not using table salt is sufficient, but much of the sodium we eat comes from processed food and restaurant entrees.
Even if one foregoes table salt, they could still be consuming higher than acceptable levels of sodium, so it is important to look at labels and be careful about dining out.
One reason sodium contributes to hypertension is that it causes greater water retention that can increase the pressure on blood vessels.
9. Lower blood pressure levels don’t mean you are “cured” of hypertension
When you see the numbers go down to normal levels during your blood pressure test, you can feel happy and relieved, but avoid complacency. Getting a blood pressure reading within the normal range after having higher numbers does not mean you are cured of hypertension.
Many people end up getting laxer about their routine after a lower blood pressure reading. They may indulge in fatty foods, stop exercising, or even stop taking medication.
It is important to keep up the good habits that created the lower reading to treat hypertension in the long term.
10. Some Medications can increase blood pressure
Those who suffer from hypertension should keep in mind that some medications can increase blood pressure or interfere with medicines that treat hypertension. Even ibuprofen for a headache or cough remedies could temporarily raise your blood pressure. Decongestants can be particularly problematic and should be taken only when strictly necessary.
In addition, medicines that promote weight loss such as appetite suppressants make the metabolism work harder and can increase blood pressure. It is important to consult your doctor before taking medications, particularly if your hypertension is severe.
Since the list of medications that can affect blood pressure is a long one, it pays to be careful.