Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, occurs when there is too much pressure in your blood vessels. The force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high and this can cause damage to your blood vessels and the rest of your body. Hypertension can ultimately lead to other health conditions ranging from arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), heart attack, stroke and kidney diseases.
When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through your arteries to the rest of the body. This pressure – blood pressure – is the result of two forces. The top number of your blood pressure reading is your systolic pressure and occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries. The bottom number of your blood pressure reading is your diastolic pressure and is created as the heart rests between heartbeats.
Your heart and blood vessels have to work harder and are less efficient if you suffer from hypertension.
Over time, the force and friction of blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries. As these artery wall tears begin to form, the LDL (bad) cholesterol forms plaque that builds up in the walls, making the artery narrow. The more the plaque and damage increases, the narrower the insides of the arteries become – raising blood pressure.
Many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it as hypertension often as few or no symptoms. Common symptoms of hypertension include severe headaches, fatigue or confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, dizziness, chest pain, visual changes and blood in the urine.
There are a number of treatments for high blood pressure:
- Know your numbers – early detection is important. Regular blood pressure readings can help you and your doctor notice any changes.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle – you doctor will recommend you maintain a healthy weight, eat healthier, reduce your sodium intake, exercise and limit your alcohol consumption.
- Check your blood pressure at home – take ownership of your treatment by tracking your blood pressure.
- Medications – if your doctor prescribes a medication, take it exactly the way your doctor says.
- Exercise – be physically active for 30 to 60 minutes for most days of the week.
- Don’t smoke – Tobacco injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening the arteries. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit.
- Manage stress – reduce stress as much as possible. Practice coping techniques, such as muscle relaxation, deep breathing or mediation. Physical activity and plenty of sleep can help, too.
Call your doctor if you are not responding to the treatment your doctor prescribed and your blood pressure is still high or if you are experiencing fatigue, nausea, headache, palpitations or irregular heartbeats, these symptoms may be serious and should warrant prompt medical attention.
Make an annual check-up appointment with your doctor or health care provider to have your blood pressure checked. If you are looking for a doctor with experience in treating hypertension, please call (316) 962-DOCS.
American Heart Association blood pressure guidelines as of November 2017: