High Blood Pressure: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options
Certain health conditions are so prevalent, that most people have heard of them at some point. Such is the case with certain types of cancers, heart disease, and high blood pressure. But while these ailments are somewhat understood by the average person, do you actually know what it means?
High blood pressure is a medical term of art that can have a substantial effect on your overall health. Therefore, it’s important to know what causes it, learn to recognize symptoms, and be aware of treatment options.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure (BP) refers to the strain caused by your blood on the walls of your veins and arteries as it is pumped through your body. A healthy BP is between 90/60 and 120/80. The top figure (systolic) refers to the pressure against your blood vessel walls during heartbeats, while the bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure of the blood against your blood vessel walls between beats.
High blood pressure (hypertension or HBP) is when you consistently have a BP of 140/90 or greater. Having high blood pressure puts extra stress on your heart, veins, and arteries. If your HBP remains high for an extended period of time, it could result in vision loss, kidney disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD), angina (chest pain), stroke, or heart attack.
What causes high blood pressure?
While the cause of HBP is unknown in some people, there are many factors that can contribute to high blood pressure. Some of the most common ones include:
- Thyroid disorders
- Sleep apnea
- Consuming too much sodium
- Consuming too much alcohol
- Being overweight or obese
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Certain medications
- Using cocaine
Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
A big problem with high blood pressure is that, often, a person won’t experience any symptoms. In fact, a person can have high blood pressure for years, and not know it. This is why the condition is often referred to as a silent killer – which is why it’s so important to get regular checkups. For those who do show signs of HBP, they may feel the following:
- Blurry vision
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Severe headaches
- Irregular heartbeats
It’s crucial to note that if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, seek medical care immediately – as you may already be having a heart attack or stroke.
What To Do To Control Blood Pressure
There are several things you can do at home to control high blood pressure, including:
Fruit, vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens), legumes, and whole grains are essential components of a healthy diet. If you’re not sure how to get started, look online for recipes that can easily incorporate more produce – such as pasta, soups, and smoothies. Also, limit your consumption of table salt and added sugars. The American Heart Association has useful tips to help you decrease your sugar intake.
When you’re stressed out, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which prepares your body for a fight or flight response. This causes the heart to beat faster, raising the blood pressure and increasing the risk of a heart attack. Managing everyday stressors requires you to be proactive, but it’s doable. By incorporating small changes, such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, or cognitive behavioral therapy, you’ll alleviate its effect on your health.
One way to control blood pressure is to have a strong heart. This would result in pumping more blood with less effort, causing less stress for both the heart and blood vessels. If you’re not sure where to begin, start gradually. You can begin by taking daily walks, dancing to your favorite music, or joining a water aerobics group class – which is an ideal alternative if you suffer from osteoarthritis, since the buoyancy in the water relieves stress from the joints. If you haven’t worked out in a while, consult with your doctor as to the best types of exercises for you.
If you’re overweight or obese, losing the excess weight will have the most significant effect on improving your blood pressure. This is because the more you weigh, the higher your BP. A good starting point to know how much weight you should lose is by measuring your body mass index (BMI) by using a BMI calculator.
If you have high blood pressure, let us help you.
At Pinnacle Research, we specialize in the exploration of disease. We work with over 70 referring physicians in San Antonio and Austin, providing clinical trials in liver disease.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you.