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High blood pressure (or hypertension) is the gradual increase of the pressure of blood flowing through your arteries. Nearly half of all adults in the United States suffer from hypertension, yet many are unaware of their condition. Several factors contribute to hypertension, including age, obesity, family history, a sedentary lifestyle, a high-sodium diet, ethnicity, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is expressed as two numbers: systolic pressure (the top number) and diastolic pressure (the bottom number).
Normal Blood Pressure: a reading of less than 130/80
High blood pressure is classified into two stages:
● Stage 1 Hypertension: a reading of 130-139/80-89
● Stage 2 Hypertension: a reading of anything over 140/90
High blood pressure (hypertension) is often called the “silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms. However, if left uncontrolled, it can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease (heart attack), stroke, and kidney disease over time.
Although symptoms can be difficult to detect and identify, Some symptoms can include:
Headaches - Particularly in the morning, which may be accompanied by blurred vision, dizziness, or nausea.
Shortness of breath - Feeling breathless during physical activity or even at rest.
Chest pain - Discomfort or tightness in the chest.
Fatigue - Feeling tired or weak regardless of your physical or mental strain that day.
*NOTE: These symptoms are not specific to high blood pressure and may be caused by other health conditions. The only way to know if you have hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can stem from a range of underlying factors, divided into two main categories: primary and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension, the most common variant, emerges gradually and is shaped by a blend of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle elements, each playing a role in its gradual progression. These contributing factors encompass:
Genetic predisposition and familial history.
Unhealthy dietary choices, particularly excessive sodium intake.
Excess body weight and obesity.
Sedentary habits and insufficient physical activity.
Effective stress management and chronic stress reduction.
Natural age-related changes in blood vessels.
In contrast to primary hypertension, secondary hypertension pinpoints a specific, identifiable cause that can be addressed to regulate blood pressure. Notable factors include:
Kidney diseases, including chronic kidney conditions and renal artery stenosis.
Hormonal imbalances like hyperthyroidism, Cushing's syndrome, or primary aldosteronism.
Sleep apnea and sleep-related breathing disturbances.
Specific medications, such as NSAIDs, decongestants, and hormonal birth control.
Pregnancy-linked hypertension (gestational hypertension or preeclampsia).
Adrenal gland disorders influencing hormone production.
Thyroid disorders influencing blood pressure regulation.
Elevated blood pressure due to chronic alcohol consumption.
Although primary and secondary are categorized separately, their influence can overlap, with factors from one category potentially contributing to the development of the other. This interplay underscores the dynamic nature of high blood pressure and its potential to evolve over time.
While there are generally no high blood pressure symptoms to clinically identify in patients, doctors have developed tests that can be taken in normal day-to-day life and in a professional setting. These tests can be purchased, taken where they are locally available, or conducted by a doctor, and they include:
Purchasing a home blood pressure monitor
Purchasing a wearable fitness tracker with blood pressure monitoring
Clinical blood pressure measurement
24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring
Urine and blood testing
In addition to prescription medications, high blood pressure treatment typically involves a multi-faceted approach that considers the patient’s lifestyle and habits. Considering that information, changes are made to effectively manage blood pressure and reduce the risk of complications. Here are some common methods adopted by our patients:
Adopting the DASH diet
Limiting sodium intake to managed levels
Reducing or cutting out saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and processed foods.
Engaging in regular aerobic exercise an hour a day, most days of the week
Improving overall cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength through strength training
Managing your weight through regular exercise and a healthy diet
Incorporating relaxation techniques to lower your stress levels
Limiting or cutting out alcohol consumption
Quitting both tobacco and weed smoking
Regularly measuring your blood pressure
Getting seven to nine hours of sleep nightly
There are not necessarily home remedies that help lower high blood pressure, but there are several lifestyle modifications individuals can make to help put you on the path to doing so. A heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in sodium is essential. Reducing salt intake, staying hydrated, and limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption can also have a positive impact. Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking or other aerobic exercises, helps maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure. Stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can be beneficial, as stress can contribute to elevated blood pressure. Lastly, quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke is crucial, as smoking can raise blood pressure and damage blood vessels. Consistency in these healthy habits, combined with medical guidance and monitoring, is key to effectively managing high blood pressure at home.
Ongoing management of high blood pressure entails a vigilant and balanced approach to health. It involves maintaining healthy lifestyle habits such as consuming a diet low in sodium and rich in whole foods, engaging in regular physical activity, managing stress, and adhering to a healthy weight. Regular blood pressure monitoring, both at home and during healthcare visits, helps track progress and guide treatment adjustments. If prescribed, use of medication as instructed is key to getting your blood pressure down to manageable levels. All these steps combined allows you to have a comprehensive approach to reducing your high blood pressure.
Preventing high blood pressure follows a similar process as one would see during treatment, focusing more on lifestyle and what’s consumed than anything else. While there is no guaranteed method to completely prevent the development of high blood pressure, the following factors can significantly reduce the risk of its development:
Keeping a healthy diet
Limiting salt intake
Maintaining a healthy weight
Getting regular exercise
Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
Monitoring blood pressure
Getting quality sleep
Managing chronic conditions