High blood pressure

Blood pressure refers to the measurement of the force or pressure exerted by blood against the walls of blood vessels. This pressure against the blood vessel walls is constantly too strong in people with high blood pressure (hypertension).

High blood pressure is known as the "silent killer". This is because you might not know that something is wrong with your body, but it is causing harm. Moreover, high blood pressure could be present for years without causing any symptoms. If the condition is uncontrolled, it elevates the risk of severe health issues such as heart disease or stroke. However, the good news is that high blood pressure is easily detectable. 

 

Causes of High Blood Pressure 

Hypertension is divided into two categories, each with varying causes: 

Primary hypertension:

Essential hypertension is another name for primary hypertension, the most common form of high blood pressure. It progresses gradually and has no known cause. The mechanisms that cause blood pressure to rise gradually are still unknown to researchers. However, various combinations of aspects might be at play. They include the following; 

Physical changes: When anything in the body changes, you might start having problems all over. One of these problems may be high blood pressure. Changes in the function of the kidney because of aging, for example, are thought to upset the body's normal salt and fluid balance. Your blood pressure can then rise as a result of this shift. 

Genes: Some individuals are predisposed to high blood pressure due to their genetic makeup. This could be due to inherited genetic defects or gene mutations from one or both parents.

Environment: Hazardous lifestyle decisions, such as improper diet or lack of physical activities, may have a long-term impact on the body. Weight issues can occur due to such lifestyle decisions. Hypertension is more likely if you are overweight or obese. 

Stress: High-stress levels can cause a rise in blood pressure for a short period. Stress-related behaviors like overeating, smoking, or consuming alcohol may cause blood pressure to rise even higher. 

 

Secondary hypertension:

This type of high blood pressure usually develops rapidly and might be more intense compared to primary hypertension. Examples of the health conditions that might trigger secondary hypertension are; 

  • Obstructive sleep apnea 
  • Thyroid problems 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Congenital cardiac defects 
  • Some medication side effects
  • Alcohol abuse and excessive consumption 
  • Illegal drugs use 
  • Adrenal gland disorders 
  • Some endocrine growths or tumors 

 

Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure 

High blood pressure is typically a silent illness. Most people do not have any signs or symptoms. It could even take years, if not decades, for the disease to progress to the point that symptoms are visible. Even so, such symptoms might be due to something else.

Nonetheless, severe high blood pressure can cause the following symptoms; 

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Headaches 
  • Nose bleeding 
  • Dizziness 
  • Flushing 
  • Chest pain 
  • Changes in vision 
  • Blood traces in the urine

These hypertension signs and symptoms need medical attention right away. Although they don't happen to every person with the condition, waiting for the symptom to show might be life-threatening.  

Taking routine blood pressure tests is the easiest way to determine whether you have high blood pressure. At almost every visit, most physicians' offices normally take a blood pressure reading.

 

High Blood Pressure Diagnosis 

Taking a person’s blood pressure reading is all it takes to diagnose hypertension. Blood pressure is usually checked as part of a regular visit to the doctor's office. Request a blood pressure reading if you don't get one during your next visit. 

When the reading shows that your blood pressure is high, the doctor can order additional tests over a few days or weeks. A diagnosis of hypertension is rarely made based on a single reading. The doctor would like to see signs of a long-term issue. This is because your surroundings, including the stress you might experience at the provider's office, can contribute to high blood pressure. On the other hand, high blood pressure levels tend to fluctuate during the day. 

In case your blood pressure is consistently high, the doctor will most likely order further testing to rule out any underlying issues. Some of the tests you may be subjected to include; 

  • Urine examination 
  • Other blood checks, including cholesterol monitoring
  • An electrocardiogram to measure the heart's electric activity (also known as EKG, or sometimes an ECG)
  • An ultrasound of the kidneys or the heart 

These diagnostic tests will assist the physicians in identifying any secondary conditions that could be contributing to your high blood pressure. They will also examine the effects of increased blood pressure on your body organs. The doctor can start the hypertension treatment during this period. Remember that early care and management could help prevent long-term consequences and various high blood pressure complications

 

Understanding the Hypertension Readings 

There are two numbers that make up a high blood pressure reading. They include; 

Systolic pressure: This refers to the first, or the top, number. It measures the pressure in the arteries as the heartbeats and pumps blood out. 

Diastolic pressure: The second, or the bottom, number. It's a measurement of the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. 

Adult blood pressure readings are divided into five categories:

 

Normal or healthy blood pressure: Blood pressure should be below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in order to be considered stable or healthy.

Elevated or high blood pressure: The diastolic number is below 80 mm Hg, while the systolic number ranges between 120 to 129 mm Hg. In most cases, the doctors do not use drugs to treat high blood pressure. Instead, they can advise you to make some lifestyle changes that will reduce the numbers. 

Stage 1 hypertension: This is when the systolic number is ranging from 130 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic number of 80 to 89 mm Hg. 

Stage 2 hypertension: Here, the systolic number is either 140 mm Hg or more, while the diastolic number could be 90 mm Hg or even higher. 

Hypertensive crisis: Systolic number is greater than 180 mm Hg, and the diastolic number is above 120 mm Hg. This level of blood pressure needs immediate medical attention. Whenever the blood pressure is this high, the symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, or vision changes should be treated in the emergency department.

A blood pressure cuff is used to take a reading. It is vital to have a properly fitting cuff for a correct, accurate reading. The readings from an ill-fitting cuff can be unreliable. 

 

High Blood Pressure Treatment Options 

Various factors enable the physician to determine the most suitable high blood pressure cure and treatment option. Examples of such factors are the type of high blood pressure you have and the underlying causes or triggers. 

If the physician diagnoses primary hypertension, he or she can recommend lowering your blood pressure by making some lifestyle changes. He or she can suggest medication if lifestyle changes are not enough or if they're no longer effective. 

If the doctor finds any disorder that is contributing to your hypertension, treatment and care will be tailored to that condition. If a drug you are taking is making you have high blood pressure, the doctor can recommend other medications with different effects.

In spite of a cure for the underlying cause, hypertension can sometimes persist. The doctor can work with you to establish lifestyle changes and advise on drugs to help you lower the elevated blood pressure in this situation. 

Keep in mind that high blood pressure remedies and treatment options are constantly changing. What was effective in the beginning could become obsolete with time. Due to this, your medical provider will keep on refining your treatment. 

High Blood Pressure Medication:

With blood pressure drugs, most patients undergo a trial-and-error process. You may have to experiment with different drugs before you finally find one. At times, it could be a blend of medications that are effective for you. 

The following are some of the drugs that doctors use to treat high blood pressure:

Beta-blockers: These drugs cause the heart to beat more slowly with less energy. This decreases blood pressure by reducing the amount of blood being pumped via the arteries with every beat. It also prevents the body from producing some hormones that can increase blood pressure.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: These drugs prevent the body from releasing angiotensin. This is a chemical that makes the blood vessels and artery walls narrow and tighten. ACE inhibitors, therefore, relax the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. 

Diuretics: Increased levels of sodium and too much fluid in the body can cause blood pressure to rise. Also known as water tablets, diuretics aid in the removal of excess sodium from the body by the kidneys. Additional fluid in the bloodstream travels into the urine as the sodium leaves; this helps reduce the blood pressure. 

Other significant medications for hypertension include; 

  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Calcium channel blockers 
  • Alpha-2 agonists 

 

Conclusion 

The force that blood puts on the arteries' walls as it passes through them is measured when the doctor is taking your blood pressure. Blood vessels may be severely damaged if blood pressure remains high for an extended period.

At times, hypertension does not cause any associated symptoms; hence it becomes difficult to detect. However, routine screening enables you to know if you require more preventive action and treatment.