Published March 28th, 2020 by USA Rx
If you’re one of the one in two Americans struggling to keep their blood pressure at a manageable level, you may be looking for more ways to manage your condition. High blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer” because it produces few symptoms but is a major contributor to many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease and stroke. Before we can talk about how to treat hypertension, or high blood pressure, it’s important to understand what causes high blood pressure, what types of problems it can cause in our bodies, and what our blood pressure goals should be.
In order to keep our bodies functioning normally and keep us alive, our hearts pump blood through our bodies to reach our tissues and organs, delivering much needed oxygen from our blood. Your blood pressure is the force at which blood pushes against the walls of the blood vessels, including your arteries, veins, and capillaries. The main function of the heart is to pump blood throughout our bodies, and your blood pressure reading measures the force at which this occurs.
Blood pressure readings are given in the form of two numbers, which measure systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The top number listed in your blood pressure reading is the systolic pressure, while the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number. The systolic, or “active,” pressure is measured as the blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries. This is the force at which your blood pushes against the walls of the blood vessels while your heart is actively working. Diastolic pressure is the pressure of the blood in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats; it may help to think of this as the “resting” pressure.
High blood pressure is diagnosed when your blood flow is consistently pushes against the walls of your blood vessels too forcefully over time, causing damage and risk factors. High blood pressure is dangerous because it causes damage to the heart and blood vessels by increasing their workload, causing them to work less efficiently and have to work harder to provide the tissues and organs with the blood they need to function. When your blood pressure is too high, it eventually can cause a narrowing of the blood vessels by creating microtears in the walls of the arteries. This narrowing further prevents blood from reaching the different areas of the body and further elevates your blood pressure.
For such serious health topics and health issues, you would think that scientists would know the exact cause of high blood pressure, but the jury is still out. Thanks to the American Heart Association, what we do know is that there are a number of factors that contribute to hypertension, including genetic factors, cardiovascular disease, health conditions, and lifestyle choices. Some causes linked to high blood pressure include:
In more than 95 percent of cases, the exact cause of hypertension cannot be identified. When this happens, it is referred to as “essential hypertension.” When high blood pressure is categorized as essential hypertension, it is commonly caused by lifestyle factors and side effects; salt intake is a particularly common culprit among people diagnosed with essential hypertension.
There are five different categories for blood pressure based on heart beat. Blood pressure readings are written by placing the systolic blood pressure, or “active,” number on top and the diastolic, or “resting,” number on the bottom (mm hg).
The short answer is that everyone is at risk for high blood pressure, which is part of the reason why the condition is so common. There are many lifestyle factors, genetic factors, and medical factors that play a role in who develops hypertension. Men are more likely than women to experience high blood pressure until age 45, but both genders experience similar rates of high blood pressure from ages 45 to 65. After age 65, women are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. Race can also play a role in determining your risk for high blood pressure, as African-Americans are significantly more likely to experience high blood pressure than non-Hispanic Caucasians or Latino people. Of the 103 million people in the United States who had high blood pressure as of 2018, only about half reported having their blood pressure under control. While the majority (over 80 percent) were aware that they had high blood pressure and 75 percent were treating the condition, nearly 50 percent of people reported that their hypertension was still not in control. The incidence of high blood pressure is expected to continue to rise in the coming decades despite increasing awareness of the dangers associated with hypertension.
A number of serious health conditions are either caused or worsened by high blood pressure, some of them fatal. Some of the conditions most commonly linked to hypertension include:
One of the things that makes hypertension so dangerous is that it usually produces no symptoms, so people may not realize they have high blood pressure until it is too late. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly, especially as you age.
Due to the large number of lifestyle factors that play a role in high blood pressure, there are many steps you can take to lower your risk with a few simple lifestyle changes. If you notice symptoms of high blood pressure, start by incorporating one or more of these changes into your daily routine: