Blood pressure is the force responsible for moving blood throughout our circulatory system. Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The number that measures the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body is known as systolic pressure, and the number that measures the resistance to blood flow in the blood vessels is referred to as diastolic pressure. The measurement unit for blood pressure is millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Normal blood pressure readings are around < 120 mmHg for systolic and < 80 mmHg for diastolic. Every person’s measurements can be different, and what is normal for one person could be low or high for someone else. Maintaining normal blood pressure readings is important because it is essential for the proper flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout our bodies.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
The first stage is when doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and consider medication to help regulate blood pressure, depending on the level of risk for heart attack or stroke. Hypertension stage 1 measurements will have systolic readings between 130 and 139 mmHg and diastolic readings between 80 and 89 mmHg.
The second stage is when doctors are more likely to prescribe medication along with lifestyle changes. Hypertension stage 2 measurements have systolic readings of 140 mmHg or higher and diastolic readings of 90 mmHg or higher. Any readings beyond the levels for hypertension stage 2 mean that a person is experiencing a hypertensive crisis and will need medical attention.
Causes of high blood pressure
There can be several factors behind why a person can have high blood pressure. While it may not be clear what exactly causes high blood pressure, it sometimes can be attributed to some lifestyle choices. Persons who are overweight, related to someone with high blood pressure, and/or are over the age of 65 are more at risk of having high blood pressure. Making lifestyle changes in favour of living a more balanced, healthy lifestyle helps reduce the risk of having high blood pressure or lowering blood pressure if it is already high.
Reasons for a sudden increase in blood pressure
Occasionally, we can observe high blood pressure readings. It is normal to see our blood pressure levels fluctuate throughout the day. These spikes in blood pressure can be a result of different factors. Caffeine consumption has been noted as one reason why blood pressure levels can spike drastically. Research has been unable to discover why caffeine causes blood pressure to spike, but doctors have recommended that those who already have high blood pressure avoid consuming caffeine. Stress is another factor that can cause blood pressure to spike. Doctors recommend managing stress so it does not become a long-term problem as this can lead to permanent blood pressure problems.
Risks of high blood pressure
The health risks associated with high blood pressure can be deadly if it is not properly managed. High blood pressure can cause damage to the heart and arteries by increasing their workload, making them work less efficiently. This occurs because the force of the blood pressure damages the tissues inside of our arteries leading to LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) forming plaque along the artery walls, known as atherosclerosis. As more plaque forms and more damage occurs this can lead to some conditions such as arrhythmia, heart attack, and stroke. Because these effects are not noticeable, high blood pressure is known as a silent killer. It is important to stay on top of knowing our numbers and making the correct choices to manage high blood pressure.
Managing high blood pressure
Knowing your blood pressure numbers is the first step you can take in managing high blood pressure. It is important that we manage our blood pressure levels, especially if they are high, because it can help lower our risk of developing health problems. This can be done with medication or lifestyle changes.
Lowering blood pressure in the short term
Doctors may recommend some medications that a person would need to take short-term to lower blood pressure to manageable levels. This means that a person would not need to take medication for the rest of their life. A doctor may recommend an ACE inhibitor to relax blood vessels to reduce blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers are used to widen blood vessels. Beta-blockers may be used to help the heart beat more slowly and with less force.
We can make some life changes to help manage our high blood pressure apart from taking medication. This is an effort that we make on our part to improve our health and lower our risk of developing more serious health complications down the road. Watching our diet is an essential part of making lifestyle changes. Ensuring that we eat a balanced diet that is low in salt will help manage blood pressure levels. Pairing a balanced diet with regular physical activity is another great way to avoid high blood pressure readings. This would also contribute to maintaining a healthy weight, which is another way to manage high blood pressure.
Taking regular blood pressure measures and staying on top of readings is a good way to manage blood pressure levels, but there are some instances where preventative measures need to be taken to avoid further complications in the future. The preventative measures that one can take are tied to lifestyle choices. Beyond maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen, it is also important to cut down on smoking, caffeine consumption, and alcohol consumption as these actions can also affect blood pressure levels and raise them over time.
Though the complications associated with high blood pressure are not noticeable at first, there are several health complications that can occur as a result of neglecting high levels.
Heart disease is one complication that can stem from having high blood pressure. In many countries, coronary heart disease has been recorded as a major cause of death. Symptoms associated with heart disease include chest pains, shortness of breath, and feeling sick.
Kidney disease is another complication that can arise if high blood pressure is not managed.
Chronic kidney disease refers to the long-term condition where the kidneys do not work as well as they should. This condition may worsen over time and kidneys may stop functioning altogether, but this does not happen in all cases. Symptoms associated with chronic kidney disease include tiredness, swollen ankles/feet/hands, and shortness of breath.
Vascular dementia can also occur as a result of high blood pressure blocking blood flow to the brain. This reduced blood flow to the brain leads to problems with mental abilities, hence it is referred to as vascular dementia. Symptoms can start slowly over time or occur suddenly. Feeling disoriented, slowness of thought, and problems with concentration are some of the symptoms that a person can experience.
When to see a doctor
When readings begin to read around 130/80 mmHg, or Hypertension stage 1 levels, the AHA suggests that persons should begin to seek treatment. This accounts for any complications that can occur at this stage and allow for earlier intervention.
Blood pressure is responsible for transporting blood throughout our bodies. Without this, we would not have the necessary nutrients and oxygen transported throughout our circulatory system to our tissues and organs. High blood pressure is when the pressure of the blood is too high and can cause damage to our veins and arteries. If this is not properly managed then it can lead to further health complications, such as heart disease or stroke, later on. High blood pressure is known as a silent killer because its effects are not immediately felt and health complications can be noticed when it is too late. It is important to stay on top of readings and make the necessary decisions to manage high blood pressure and avoid health complications.