High blood pressure (hypertension) is very common and the share of both men and women with high blood pressure increases steadily with age.High blood pressure sneaks up on you. Except at extreme levels, high blood pressure is usually a silent condition causing no symptoms, so it is important to have regular blood pressure checks.Many things are thought to help bring about high blood pressure, including several changes in the heart and blood vessels.Why is high blood pressure important?Having high blood pressure increases your risk of a variety of health problems. Some of the complications of having high blood pressure include:an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease – the higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk of angina, heart attack and stroke;heart failure; andkidney damage.How is blood pressure measured?When the heart pumps, it produces pressure inside the arteries and moves the blood forward. This is called systolic pressure. Then the heart relaxes as it fills again and the pressure in your arteries falls. This is called diastolic pressure.Blood pressure readings are given as 2 numbers – systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. The pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).As a general guide,optimal blood pressure is considered to be less than 120 mmHg (systolic pressure) over 80 mmHg (diastolic pressure) — written as 120/80;normal blood pressure is between 120/80 and 129/84; andhigh-normal blood pressure is between 130/85 and 139/89.What is high blood pressure?High blood pressure, or hypertension, means that the systolic or diastolic pressure or both are above the normal range. A reading above 140/90 mmHg is usually considered to be ‘hypertension’, although hypertension is further divided up by doctors into mild, moderate or severe depending on the blood pressure reading.The grades of hypertension are as follows.Mild (grade 1) hypertension: from 140/90 mmHg up to 159/99 mmHg.Moderate (grade 2) hypertension: from 160/100 mmHg up to 179/109 mmHg.Severe (grade 3) hypertension: 180/110 mmHg or more.When deciding whether your blood pressure reading is of concern or not, your doctor will take various factors into account, including your age, cholesterol level, smoking status and presence of other conditions such as diabetes, previous stroke, heart problems or kidney disease.Your doctor will also want to check your blood pressure on more than one occasion before deciding whether you have high blood pressure or not. They may ask you to check your blood pressure at home or wear a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring device. Home blood pressure machines can be purchased or hired from some pharmacies.It is important to remember that our blood pressure rises at certain times, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. During exercise, for example, the pulse rate and blood pressure increase in order to carry extra blood and oxygen to the muscles. When you finish exercising, the blood pressure returns to normal.Blood pressure also rises with excitement, anger or fear but this usually does not last long.How do I know if I have high blood pressure?Unless it is very high, high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is raised is to get it measured.Every adult should have their blood pressure checked regularly. Your doctor will advise you how often. This depends on your age, your general health and whether you are taking any herbal products, supplements or medicines, including the contraceptive pill.Some people may experience symptoms related to conditions causing or caused by high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will check for these symptoms.Your doctor will also ask about the health of your family members and whether any member in your family has been diagnosed with high blood pressure. They will perform a physical examination looking for any problems related to high blood pressure.What causes high blood pressure?In most people, high blood pressure results from the interaction of numerous genetic (inherited) and lifestyle factors. This is sometimes called primary or essential hypertension.A small proportion of people have secondary high blood pressure, which is high blood pressure that is caused by a specific underlying condition, such as kidney disease or hormonal problems.Other risk factors include:being overweight;smoking;not getting enough physical activity;having a high alcohol intake; andeating a diet high in salt (sodium chloride).High blood pressure treatmentsHigh blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle measures and medicines. Your doctor will recommend treatment for you based on:your blood pressure readings;whether you have other conditions related to high blood pressure; andyour overall risk of cardiovascular disease.Lifestyle measuresMaking some adjustments to your lifestyle can help lower blood pressure and improve your overall health. Lifestyle measures are the only treatment needed to control blood pressure in some people.Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight often means a higher blood pressure.Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods, with lots of vegetables, fruit and grains. Eat moderate amounts of fish, skinless chicken, lean meat cuts, eggs, nuts, legumes and reduced fat dairy foods. Avoid foods high in saturated fat (e.g. fried foods, biscuits, chips) and replace with foods containing mainly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (e.g. oils, spreads, avocado, nuts and seeds).Eat less salt: use herbs, spices, fruit and vinegar for flavouring and dressings; choose low salt pre-prepared foods; avoid pickled and takeaway foods which have a high salt content.Get regular physical activity. Strive to put a little bit more activity in your day at every opportunity. Aim to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Walking, cycling and swimming are ideal. Find activities you enjoy so you can keep them up.Cut down on alcohol. Healthy men and women should have no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks a day. Also, aim for at least 2 alcohol-free days per week.Stop smoking: quitting reduces blood pressure as well as your risk of heart attack and stroke.Medicines for high blood pressureMedicines can help control high blood pressure but do not cure it. Usually blood pressure medicines need to be taken long-term.The main types of medicines that are used to treat uncomplicated high blood pressure include:angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors);angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs);calcium channel blockers; andthiazide diuretics.The type of medicine that your doctor prescribes will depend on:your age;whether you have conditions associated with high blood pressure;whether you have other health problems or take other medicines;the side effects of different medicines; andthe cost of different medicines.To control blood pressure successfully, you may need 2 or more medicines, each working in a different way. We all react differently to medicines, so it may take some time to find the combinations and doses that suit you best.It is important to tell your doctor about any other health products you are taking — this includes eyedrops, ointments, over-the-counter preparations, herbs and supplements.It is also important to follow your doctor’s instructions about taking blood pressure medicines.You cannot tell how your blood pressure is doing by the way you feel. Regular check-ups are essential and it is unwise to change your own dose of tablets.If your blood pressure is not responding well to treatments, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist (specialist in heart conditions and high blood pressure).Side effectsLike all medicines, those for high blood pressure may occasionally cause side effects. These vary among medicines and from person to person, and often decrease with time or by your doctor adjusting your dosage.If your blood pressure gets too low on the medicine, you may feel faint or dizzy, particularly when you stand up. Try standing up slowly to reduce this, and stay close to the bed or chair for a moment in case you need to sit or lie down again. If this side effect continues, see your doctor for review.You should let your doctor know about any reactions you have to the medicines. With the range of blood pressure medicines now available, it is nearly always possible to find one that will give you minimal or no side effects.Check-upsIf you have had high blood pressure, you need to have regular checks throughout your life. This is true even if you are not currently receiving any treatment, or if you are being treated by diet and lifestyle changes or with medicines.Your doctor will advise you about how frequently you should have your blood pressure checked, but generally speaking it will be at least every 6 months.In the early stages of treatment, you may need to be seen weekly or fortnightly, but once your blood pressure is controlled, checks may be spaced out to once every 3 or 6 months.If you have high blood pressure, it’s also worth being checked for other conditions that may further increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes and high cholesterol.High blood pressure often runs in families. Suggest to others in your family that they also have their blood pressure measured. Last Reviewed: 8 February 2017
Whelton PK, et al. (2017). Guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published online November 13, 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.006. Accessed November 20, 2017.
Everything you need to know about hypertension Hypertension or high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, and death and is a major global health concern. A range of risk factors may increase the chances of a person developing hypertension, but can it be prevented? Read on to find out what causes hypertension, its symptoms, types, and how to prevent it. Read now
By the Numbers. High Blood Pressure: 1 in 3 Adults has high blood pressure; 1 in 3 Adults with high blood pressure does not get treatment; 1 in 2 Adults with high blood pressure does not have it under control. High Cholesterol: 1 in 3 Adults has high cholesterol; 1 in 2 Adults with high cholesterol does not get treatment; 2 in 3 Adults who have high cholesterol do not have it under control.
The brain requires unobstructed blood flow to nourish its many functions. Very high, sustained blood pressure will eventually cause blood vessels to weaken. Over time these weaken vessels can break, and blood will leak into the brain. The area of the brain that is being fed by these broken vessels start to die, and this will cause a stroke. Additionally, if a blot clot blocks a narrowed artery, blood ceases to flow and a stroke will occur.
The results, which were published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, showed that those with higher cholesterol levels had significantly higher blood pressure levels during exercise than those with lower cholesterol levels. The researchers concluded that even mildly increased cholesterol levels could influence blood pressure. They added that cholesterol seems to mess up how blood vessels contract and release, which can also affect the pressure needed to push blood through them.
If you’re diagnosed with high cholesterol, it means that the level of cholesterol in your blood is higher than what is believed to be healthy. Cholesterol is a type of fatty substance that your body uses to make certain hormones, produce vitamin D, and build healthy cells. We manufacture some of it in our bodies and get some of it from the foods we eat.
Essential hypertension is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. The link between salt and high blood pressure is especially compelling. People living on the northern islands of Japan eat more salt per capita than anyone else in the world and have the highest incidence of essential hypertension. By contrast, people who add no salt to their food show virtually no traces of essential hypertension.
An underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, is one of the more common secondary causes of IDH. As in primary hypertension, the elevated diastolic pressure is the result of excessive arteriolar narrowing. Hypothyroidism may be suspected in a person with weight gain, fatigue, and intolerance to the cold, but blood tests are required to confirm the diagnosis. Endocrine diseases producing high levels of aldosterone, parathyroid hormone, or corticosteroids can also cause IDH.
Dementia. Dementia is a brain disease resulting in problems with thinking, speaking, reasoning, memory, vision and movement. There are a number of causes of dementia. One cause, vascular dementia, can result from narrowing and blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the brain. It can also result from strokes caused by an interruption of blood flow to the brain. In either case, high blood pressure may be the culprit.
Low- and no-fat dairy foods are good sources of calcium and protein, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Try to get three servings of dairy every day. Choose skim or 1% milk and low- or no-fat cheeses and yogurt. Frozen low-fat yogurt is OK, too. One serving equals 1 cup of yogurt or milk, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese -- about the size of three dice.
It can be difficult to make many diet changes at once, especially if you have been diagnosed with two medical conditions. Try making one healthy change a week for four weeks. Once you have mastered these improvements, reward yourself with something you enjoy, like a trip to the spa or to the movies. The second month, focus on maintaining these healthy habits and adding healthy variety to your meals. When you feel ready, try a fifth and sixth healthy change, and don't forget to reward yourself for the positive changes that you have made.
HDL cholesterol: Two types of cholesterol are found in your bloodstream: HDL and LDL. HDL is the “good” kind. It acts as a scavenger, picking up extra cholesterol and taking it back to your liver. When a doctor tests your blood for cholesterol levels, you want your HDL levels to be high. HDL levels of 60 or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.
Mayo Clinic: “Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet,” “HDL cholesterol: How to boost your 'good' cholesterol,” “Cholesterol levels: What numbers should you aim for?” “High blood pressure,” “Triglycerides: Why do they matter?” “Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, and Healthier,” “Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health,” “Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress,” “Dietary Fats: Know Which Ones to Choose.”
How the heart pumps blood into the arteries with enough force to push blood to the far reaches of each organ from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Blood pressure can be defined as the pressure of blood on the walls of the arteries as it circulates through the body. Blood pressure is highest as its leaves the heart through the aorta and gradually decreases as it enters smaller and smaller blood vessels (arteries, arterioles, and capillaries). Blood returns in the veins leading to the heart, aided by gravity and muscle contraction.
Not enough info for you? Geek out on blood pressure and hypertension with these studies and stats from the most trusted sources on the interwebs. And if you have any questions or you think we missed something important, leave a comment or book a consultation with me or one of these trained medical professionals and we’ll answer your questions and concerns in no time.
In fact, it seems that the presence of high blood cholesterol may actually predict a future presence of high blood pressure. That’s what researchers reported in a 2005 study in Hypertension. They analyzed data from 3,110 men who had not been diagnosed with hypertension or cardiovascular disease at the start, and followed them for about 14 years. Just over 1,000 of them developed hypertension by the end of the study.
When discussing blood pressure issues, the healthcare professional may ask questions about past medical history, family history, and medication use, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and food additives. Other questions may include lifestyle habits, including activity levels, smoking, alcohol consumption, and illegal drug use.
Those tears make nice resting places for excess cholesterol. That means that the damage high blood pressure creates inside arteries and blood vessels can actually lead to even more plaque buildup and artery narrowing because of high blood cholesterol. In turn, your heart has to work even harder to pump blood, putting excess strain on your heart muscle.
High cholesterol is associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. That can include coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. High cholesterol has also been linked to diabetes and high blood pressure. To prevent or manage these conditions, work with your doctor to see what steps you need to take to lower your cholesterol.
Women may have sexual dysfunction as a side effect of high blood pressure, as well. High blood pressure can reduce blood flow to your vagina. For some women, this leads to a decrease in sexual desire or arousal, vaginal dryness, or difficulty achieving orgasm. Improving arousal and lubrication can help. Like men, women can experience anxiety and relationship issues due to sexual dysfunction.
Most doctors do not make a final diagnosis of high blood pressure until they measure your blood pressure several times (at least 2 blood pressure readings on 3 different days). Some doctors ask their patients to wear a portable machine that measures their blood pressure over the course of several days. This machine may help the doctor find out whether a patient has true high blood pressure or what is known as “white-coat hypertension.” White-coat hypertension is a condition in which a patient’s blood pressure rises during a visit to a doctor when anxiety and stress probably play a role.