High blood pressure (hypertension) has been making headlines for many years. It is a medical condition that is affecting one in three individuals in the US. Have you or your family member been diagnosed with hypertension? What does that mean? Here is all that you need to know about high blood pressure.
What is Hypertension?
To understand what hypertension is, you need to understand the basic anatomy. Your body has a heart. The heart has two ventricles. The left ventricle is strongest, and it squeezes and pumps blood to other parts of the body through blood vessels known as arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that take blood and allow it to travel away from the heart.
Hypertension is blood pressure that is higher than normal. Blood pressure readings that are less than 120/80 mm Hg are within the normal range. Any reading above that is high blood pressure.
High blood pressure damages blood vessels throughout the entire body from the brain to the heart, kidneys, lungs, eyes, and any other part of the body. Hypertension significantly raises the risks of having a stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, and heart disease.
You may have heard that hypertension is a silent killer. That is because it does not show symptoms until it is too late. Many people know that they have high blood pressure after developing serious complications.
When measuring blood pressure, we measure the pressure on the artery walls. Three main factors play a role in this pressure. These factors are:
- Cardiac output: It is how much blood your heart pumps out with each beat
- Blood volume: The total amount of blood in the body
- Resistance: The resistance your heart has to pump blood against
When you visit a hospital or doctor’s office and have a healthcare professional measure your blood pressure, that cuff they use is known as a sphygmomanometer. It works by constricting the arteries within your arm to measure systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In your blood pressure report, you see numbers written in a fraction. The top number is the systolic number, while the bottom number is the diastolic number. The systolic number is the pressure during the maximal contraction of the heart. The diastolic or bottom number is when the heart is completely relaxed.
When taking a blood pressure test, there is a lot that can go wrong. There is also a lot of room for error. There are higher chances of getting incorrect blood pressure reading if the patient:
- hasn’t rested for at least 5 minutes
- is in an emotional state
- is talking
- just had a cigarette
- drank a cup of coffee or alcohol
- is cold
- has a full bladder and needs to use the bathroom
All these things can make it look like the patient has high blood pressure when they don’t. Because there are too many external factors that can affect your blood pressure, doctors don’t give a diagnosis of hypertension until the patient has two elevated readings from two separate visits.
There is no cure for hypertension, but there are several things that can help manage blood pressure. Controlling your blood pressure levels decreases the risk of death by 25 percent and lowers the risk of having stroke and heart attack by 30 percent.
If you have hypertension, you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible. The longer you want without getting proper treatment, the more damages to your body. Your doctor will find the best treatment plan for you. Your treatment plan will include one or more medications.
High blood pressure medications include:
They help kidneys get rid of excess water and sodium. That helps reduce the volume of blood that has to pass through blood vessels. Examples of diuretics include:
- amiloride (Midamor)
- bumetanide (Bumex)
- chlorothiazide (Diuril)
- chlorthalidone (Hygroton)
- furosemide (Lasix)
- hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril, Microzide)
- metolazone (Zaroxolyn)
- torsemide (Demadex)
They help lower blood pressure by blocking the action of chemicals that stimulate the heart. That makes the heart pump less blood through the blood vessels with each beat. Examples of beta-blockers for blood pressure control are:
- acebutolol (Sectral)
- betaxolol (Kerlone)
- metoprolol succinate (Toprol-XL)
- solotol (Betapace)
- timolol (Blocadren)
- nadolol (Corgard)
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
ACE inhibitors stop the production of angiotensin II hormone that causes constriction of blood vessels. These medications help expand constricted blood vessels to lower blood pressure.
They relax the walls of blood vessels. That allows arterioles to expand and allow blood to flow through them more easily. Hydralazine (Apresoline) and minoxidil (Loniten) are the most common vasodilators.
Other medications for high blood pressure include:
- Aldosterone receptor antagonists
- Calcium channel brokers
- Central agonist
- Direct renin inhibitors
Don’t buy over-the-counter pharmaceuticals for blood pressure without a doctor’s prescription. Some of these pharmaceuticals can cause adverse side effects. Remember, medications are not everything that you need to keep your blood pressure in check.
Lifestyle changes to keep your blood pressure in check
Poor diet, lack of regular exercise, and other bad habits are responsible for about 90 percent of all hypertension cases. Not every hypertension patient needs pharmaceuticals to keep blood pressure in check. Here are some of the things that you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally:
Regular exercise is good for your heart, brain, and immune system. Regular exercise can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and some types of cancer. If you are not exercising, you can reduce your high blood pressure by exercising for about 30 minutes on most days of the week.
Dieting is the other most important thing that you can do to alter your blood pressure. The DASH diet is the best option for everyone looking to lower blood pressure. It can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 points.
3. Limit alcohol
Heavy alcohol consumption is bad for your health. If you want to lower your blood pressure naturally, you should limit your alcohol intake to two drinks per day for a man and one drink per day for a woman.
4. Quit smoking
If you don’t smoke, you should not think about starting. There is nothing good about smoking. If you are a smoker, you should quit. No amount of smoking is good for you. The best thing that you can do is to stop smoking today. If you don’t smoke, you should stay away from secondhand smoke.
Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but that does not mean that you should switch from smoking to vaping. Vaping can increase the risk of lung injuries and other complications.