High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when your blood pressure increases to unhealthy levels. Your blood pressure measurement takes into account how quickly blood is passing through your veins and the amount of resistance the blood meets while it’s pumping.
Narrow arteries increase resistance. The narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure will be. Over the long term, increased pressure can cause health issues, including heart disease.
Hypertension is quite common. In fact, 75 million Americans are living with the condition. Hypertension may develop over the course of several years. During those years, you may not notice any symptoms. Even without symptoms, high blood pressure can cause damage to your arteries and blood vessels.
Early detection is important. Regular blood pressure readings can help you and your doctor notice any changes. If your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor may check your blood pressure over a few weeks to see if the number stays elevated or falls back to normal levels.
Treatment for hypertension includes both prescription medication and healthy lifestyle changes. If the condition isn’t treated, it could lead to health issues, including heart attack and stroke.
Symptoms Of Hypertension
A person with hypertension may not notice any symptoms, and it is often called the “silent killer.” While undetected, it can cause damage to the cardiovascular system and internal organs, such as the kidneys.
Long-term hypertension can cause complications through atherosclerosis, where the formation of plaque results in the narrowing of blood vessels. This makes hypertension worse, as the heart must pump harder to deliver blood to the body.
Symptoms of hypertension include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Visual changes
- Blood in the urine
These symptoms don’t occur in everyone with hypertension, but waiting for a symptom of this condition to appear could be fatal.
The best way to know if you have hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings. Most doctors’ offices will take a blood pressure reading at every appointment.
If you only have a yearly physical, talk to your doctor about your risks for hypertension and other readings you may need to help watch your blood pressure.
For example, if you have a family history of heart disease or have risk factors for developing the condition, your many need to have your blood pressure checked twice a year. This will help you and your doctor stay on top of any possible issues before they become problematic.
Causes Of Hypertension
There are two types of hypertension. Each type has a different cause.
Primary hypertension is also called essential hypertension. This kind of hypertension develops over time with no identifiable cause.
Researchers are still unclear what mechanisms cause blood pressure to slowly increase. A combination of factors may play a role. These factors include:
Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from your parents.
Physical changes: If something in your body malfunctions, you may begin experiencing issues throughout your body. High blood pressure may be one of those issues.
For example, it’s thought that changes in your kidney function may upset the body’s natural balance of salts and fluid. This change may cause your body’s blood pressure to increase.
Environment: Over time, unhealthy lifestyle choices like lack of physical activity and poor diet can take their toll on your body. Lifestyle choices can lead to weight problems. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for hypertension.
Secondary hypertension often occurs quickly and can become more severe than primary hypertension. Several conditions that may cause secondary hypertension include:
- Kidney disease
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Congenital heart defects
- Problems with your thyroid
- Side effects of medications
- Use of illegal drugs
- Alcohol abuse or chronic use
- Adrenal gland problems
- Certain endocrine tumors
Risk factors Of Hypertension
A number of risk factors increase the chances of having hypertension.
Age: Hypertension is more common in people aged over 60 years. With age, blood pressure can increase steadily as the arteries become stiffer and narrower due to plaque build-up.
Ethnicity: Some ethnic groups are more prone to hypertension.
Size and weight: Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor.
Sex: The lifetime risk is the same for males and females, but men are more prone to hypertension at a younger age, while rates tend to be higher rate in women at older ages.
Existing health conditions: Cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and high cholesterol levels are predictors for hypertension, especially as people get older.
Other contributing factors include:
- Physical inactivity
- A salt-rich diet associated with processed and fatty foods
- Low potassium in the diet
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Certain diseases and medications
A family history of high blood pressure and poorly managed stress also contribute.
Home remedies for Hypertension
Healthy lifestyle changes can help you control the factors that cause hypertension.
The most common home remedies include:
Developing a healthy diet
A heart-healthy diet is vital for helping reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important for managing hypertension that is under control, and reducing the risk of complications. These complications include heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.
A heart-healthy diet emphasizes foods that include:
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins like fish
Increasing physical activity
Reaching a healthy weight should include being more physically active. In addition to helping you shed pounds, exercise can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure naturally, and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. That’s about 30 minutes five times per week.
Reaching a healthy weight
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help lower your blood pressure.
Exercise is a great way to manage stress. Other activities can also be helpful. These include:
- Deep breathing
- Muscle relaxation
These are all proven stress-reducing techniques. Getting adequate sleep can also help reduce stress levels.
Adopting a cleaner lifestyle
If you’re a smoker, try to quit. Tobacco damages and hardens blood vessel walls. If you regularly consume too much alcohol or have an alcohol dependency, seek help to reduce the amount you drink or stop altogether. Alcohol can raise blood pressure.
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