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Overview of High Blood Pressure

Updated on August 14, 2012
Blood pressure is more than a number so it is important that you know what it means, how to avoid it and what should be done to reduce your blood pressure if it is high.
Blood pressure is more than a number so it is important that you know what it means, how to avoid it and what should be done to reduce your blood pressure if it is high. | Source

What does High Blood Pressure Mean?

High Blood Pressure Definition:

High Blood Pressure, also known as Hypertension (HTN) is a chronic medical condition where the blood pumping through your arteries is at a higher pressure than normal. This requires the hard to work harder than it does at a normal level in order to circulate blood through the blood vessels.

The added stress put on your arteries can speed up the clogging of these arteries with fatty plaques - this process is known as atherosclerosis.

The top number you see is the systolic pressure and the second number is the diastolic pressure.
The top number you see is the systolic pressure and the second number is the diastolic pressure. | Source

Do I have High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure levels are taken using two measurements - systolic and diastolic.

  • The Systolic reading is determined by the highest pressure against the arteries as the heart pumps. A person with normal blood pressure levels will have a reading between 100-140mmhg. This is the top reading.
  • The Diastolic reading is determined by the pressure against the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats and fills with blood. A person with normal blood pressure levels will have a diastolic pressure between 70 and 90mmhg. This is the bottom reading.

High blood pressure levels are said to be above 140/90mmHg.

What is the Cause of High Blood Pressure?

Why do I have High Blood Pressure? you may be asking. Hypertension or High Blood Pressure can be caused by a number of reasons, all of which we will cover below.

The cause of Hypertension varies from person to person and an individuals cause may be due to a single factor or a combination of many.

High Blood Pressure Hereditary Factors

Family history of high blood pressure is definitely a risk factor for Hypertension, as is race. It has been seen that the African American population tend to develop high blood pressure earlier on and their symptoms are often more severe.

Sodium and High Blood Pressure

Too much sodium in your diet can increase your blood pressure and your risk of heart attack and stroke, therefore, it is important to be mindful of your sodium intake.

It is recommended that the average adult consume no more than 2, 300 mg of sodium per day and eat a diet that contains many potassium rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.

If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, are over the age of 51, are African American, have kidney disease and/or have diabetes it is recommended that you consume less than 1, 500 mg of sodium per day.

Smoking and High Blood Pressure

Whilst smoking doesn't specifically cause high blood pressure, it can temporarily raise blood pressure and will increase the risk of heart disease and blood vessel damage.

Smoking injures the walls of blood vessels, speeding up the process of the hardening of arteries. Once you stop smoking, your risk of having a heart attack is reduced after the first year and this damage will slowly begin to repair itself or be prevented in the first place.

Lack of Physical Activity and High Blood Pressure

Regular physical actvity works to control your blood pressure, manage your weight and stress levels and strengthen your heart. All of these factors are vital when it comes to maintaining good blood pressure.

Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (for example, brisk walking) 5 days a week is all it takes to start seeing benefits and the more you do the better you will feel.

Alcohol and High Blood Pressure

Even small amounts of alcohol can cause your blood pressure to increase, should you consume it regularly.Studies by Kyushu University in Japan saw that the risk of hypertension for both men and women who drank increased - even when they consumed only very small amounts.

Diabetes and Blood Pressure

Diabetes and High Blood pressure are commonly found together as diabetes changes the body chemistry in a way which increases the risk of hypertension. For people with diabetes, it is important that they try to avoid any of the other lifestyle factors that cause high blood pressure, such as smoking, obesity, not doing enough physical exercise etc. in order to try and maintain good blood pressure levels.

Kidney Disease and High Blood Pressure

Our kidneys play an important role in keeping our blood pressure levels within a healthy range. High blood pressure can affect the health of our kidneys as it can damage them over time, leading to chronic kidney disease (CKD).

This is because the high blood pressure levels cause the hard to work harder and damage the blood vessels throughout the body. If the blood vessels in the kidney are damaged, they can stop removing excess fluid and waste from the body, thus causing kidney disease. The extra fluid and waste left in the kidneys due to the damage will also raise blood pressure, making the problem even more serious.

Blood Pressure and Ageing

As we age, our arteries become less elastic, which may change a person's blood pressure pattern. It is common for older people to have a higher systolic pressure and lower diastolic pressure, known as 'isolated systolic hypertension'. This state is not normal and these people may need medication in order to control their systolic pressures.

High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol levels often come as a package, this is because a lot of their risk factors are the same.

Too much cholesterol in the body can block blood flow, causing the artery walls to harden and thicken - a disease known as arteriosclerosis. The narrowing of the arteries slows or blocks blood flow which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Some medications can raise your blood pressure so its important to check with your doctor!
Some medications can raise your blood pressure so its important to check with your doctor! | Source

Medication causing High Blood Pressure

Certain medications can raise your blood pressure or make controlling it more difficult. These medications may include:

  • the contraceptive pill
  • some nasal drops and sprays
  • some cough medicines
  • appetite suppressants
  • some eye drops
  • non-steroidal anti inflammatories

Your doctor and pharmacist will be aware of these risks and prescribe an alternative if necessary.

What are the risks of High Blood Pressure

Why is High Blood Pressure bad?

The added stress on the arteries can cause the clogging of arteries with fatty plaques (atherosclerosis).This can then lead to other illnesses developing such as heart attack and stroke.

Continuously high blood pressure levels over a period of time can cause other problems such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke

What to do when you have High Blood Pressure?

Your lifestyle is extremely important when it comes to helping you control high blood pressure and the associated risks. It is advised that you:

  • do not smoke
  • reduce your sodium intake
  • participate in regular physical activity
  • achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • limit your alcohol intake - no more than two drinks per day for men and only one drink per day for women.
Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help lower your blood pressure long term.

What to eat for High Blood Pressure

It is recommended that people with high blood pressure, or those looking to avoid it, maintain a diet which is low in fat and salt and is high in fiber.

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    • kissayer profile image
      Author

      Kristy Sayer 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks Virginia! I'm glad I could relieve your worry a bit :) Sometimes with home blood pressure monitors, the reading can be a little off - so always make sure to check when you visit your doctor!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

      This is a very good overview of high blood pressure. I've typically had low blood pressure but after thyroid surgery and trouble with getting my medication correct, I've had some higher blood pressure readings over the last few years. That really worried me so I bought a home blood pressure monitor. Actually, your definition of high as 140/90 is relieving to me because I've been worried at being over 120/70. Thanks for the good work!

    • kissayer profile image
      Author

      Kristy Sayer 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks Dinkan, you're right! :)

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 5 years ago from India

      We must control our blood pressure because it can lead to worse health problems. Thanks for pointing it out through this informative hub. Rated up and useful.