Published March 28th, 2020 by USA Rx
Picture yourself and two coworkers. You’re all pretty healthy, right? Appearances can be deceiving. The American Heart Association estimates that about 103 million people, or one out of every two adult Americans, have high blood pressure, and that number is expected to rise. Only about 50 percent of people with high blood pressure report having their blood pressure under control. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease, and hypertensive heart disease is the leading cause of death associated with high blood pressure. About 70 percent of people who have their first heart attack, 77 percent who have their first stroke, and 74 percent who have congestive heart failure have high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control will not only make you feel better - it might just save your life! There are lots of ways you can lower your blood pressure without medication by making a few simple lifestyle changes.
Before we talk about what it means to have high blood pressure, let’s first establish what blood pressure is. Blood pressure is simply the force at which your blood pushes against the walls of your blood vessels, like your arteries, veins, and capillaries. In order to stay alive and function properly, our tissues and organs need to receive oxygen from our blood. The heart pushes blood out into the blood vessels each time it pumps, sending it to the organs and extremities.
Blood pressure is measured using numbers that quantify two different forces: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. When you receive a blood pressure reading, the systolic pressure is the first or top number listed, while the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number. Systolic pressure is the pressure that occurs when the blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries; it may help to think of this as the “active” pressure. Diastolic pressure is the pressure measured as your heart rests between beats; it may help to think of this as the “resting” pressure.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when your blood pushes too hard against the walls of your blood vessels on a consistent basis. Hypertension can damage your overall heart health and blood vessels because it increases their workload, causing them to work less efficiently and have to work harder to achieve the same levels of oxygen in the blood. Eventually, the extra pressure damages the walls of the arteries and can cause narrowing in the blood vessels, further preventing blood from reaching the different areas of the body and further elevating your blood pressure.
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes high blood pressure, but there are a number of factors that contribute. Genetic factors, health conditions, and lifestyle choices can all influence your blood pressure. Some causes linked to high blood pressure include:
When the exact cause of hypertension cannot be identified, it is referred to as “essential hypertension;” more than 95 percent of cases fall into this category. When high blood pressure is categorized as essential hypertension, it is most likely due to lifestyle factors, particularly salt intake.
Men are more likely to experience high blood pressure than women until the age of 45. Between 45 and 65, men and women experience high blood pressure at similar levels. Over age 65, women are more likely to have high blood pressure than men.
There are five different categories for blood pressure. Blood pressure readings are written by placing the systolic, or “active,” number on top and the diastolic, or “resting,” number on the bottom.
High blood pressure can cause or contribute to a number of serious issues and health conditions. Some of the conditions most commonly impacted by high blood pressure include:
Many people do not realize they have high blood pressure because the condition on its own does not cause noticeable symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly so you can manage it before it is too late.
Because high blood pressure is so frequently and heavily influenced by the lifestyles we lead and the choices we make, there are many steps you can take to lower your blood pressure. If you’re wondering how to lower your blood pressure, begin by incorporating one or more of these suggestions into your daily routine: