High blood pressure, also known as hypertension is a disorder of the cardiovascular system. A chronic condition that, if not treated, can lead to cardiovascular disease. Millions of Americans have high blood pressure . Known as the “silent killer” hypertension does not discriminate. It is a disease that can occur in anyone at any time. Some people are affected by high blood pressure due to prior medical conditions and some from lifestyle choices. Either way hypertension is serious. It can be deadly.
In order for your organs to receive oxygen your heart must pump oxygen-rich blood to them. The heart sends the blood through the body via the bodies veins and arteries. The heart contracts and the blood is pushed through the circulatory system. The heart then rests before contracting again. This action is known as systolic and diastolic action and are the two components of blood pressure.
When the blood is forced into the arteries the arteries stretch. Overtime if the arteries are stretched too far, or if plaque builds up inside of the arteries, the heart must pump harder to get the oxygen-rich blood to the organs. When this occurs the blood pressure raises and complications such as heart disease, vascular disease and organ damage can occur.
The symptoms of high blood pressure can vary. Often with high blood pressure there is no recognizable symptoms. If the blood pressure is extremely high one can feel dizziness, fatigue, pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, or a mild to sever headache. These symptoms can be a sign of a crisis and the person should see a doctor immediately.
According to the American Heart Association blood pressure is considered normal when the systolic (when the heart contracts) number is less than 120 and the diastolic number (when the heart rests) is less then 80. There are 4 stages of hypertension that the AHA recognizes. The first is Prehypertension. The range in this stage is 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. Next there is Stage I hypertension. The range in this stage is 140-159 systolic and 90-99 diastolic. Stage II hypertension is 160 systolic or higher and over 90 diastolic. Stage III is the most sever with any readings of 180 systolic and 110 diastolic. Stage III is considered an emergency.
Why is knowing your blood pressure so important? It is imperative to one’s well being. High blood pressure can be a silent killer. As a person ages their risk of cardiovascular disease increases. The harder the heart has to work the less oxygen gets to the body. The vessels can become damaged, and serious problems can occur. A major concern is heart attack and stroke. Kidney disease and blindness can also be a result. The lungs can become affected and fluid can back up. Almost every organ can be affected. Hypertension can be serious if not treated.
High Blood Pressure is diagnosed by a physician usually after a series of high readings. At any time a person may have a high reading. This does not necessarily mean they have hypertension. Physician’s may also have a patient wear a 24 hour monitor to better understand a person’s blood pressure. Once a diagnosis of hypertension is made treatment can begin.
Simple lifestyle changes can be beneficial for those with high blood pressure and for those who want to prevent getting it. Eating a heart healthy diet and reducing salt intake is important. Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking make a big difference. Avoiding stress is also important. Consider meditation, yoga and other stress relieving activities.
Prescription medication is often used to control hypertension. Typically the doctor will begin by prescribing a diuretic medication. If this does not have the desired affect other prescription medications such as Ace Inhibitors, Beta Blockers and Calcium Channel Blockers will be used. These medications are usually taken daily and may be needed for the rest of a person’s life.
Treatment is very important. Of the people with known hypertension 69.1% are under treatment and 30.9% are not using any treatment. At least 20% of people with hypertension do not even know they have it. As a person ages it is imperative that they see a doctor for yearly physicals. Hypertension is a serious condition that may not show any signs.
High blood pressure is a condition that can be controlled. It is important to motivate yourself to properly take your medications and continue lifestyle changes. It is never too late to begin a regimen. There is a lot of information that can be obtained on hypertension. Being informed is key to well-being.