High Blood Pressure – the Silent KillerMay 1, 2019
High blood pressure (otherwise known as hypertension) is a serious condition which rarely carries any symptoms and which, if not detected and treated, can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, or renal failure, all of which are serious life-threatening conditions.
What is high blood pressure?
The arteries of the body are constantly filled with blood which exerts a normal “background” pressure on the walls of the arteries. As the heart pumps freshly oxygenated blood around the body, it forces the blood into the arteries, momentarily raising the pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries during each beat of the heart. These two pressures are known as the systolic pressure (the higher pumping pressure of the heart) and the diastolic pressure (the lower “background” pressure).
Normal levels of blood pressure vary from individual to individual, but on average, systolic pressure should be around 120mm Hg (millimeters of mercury measured on a manometer) and diastolic pressure should be about 80mm Hg. This is ordinarily expressed as a blood pressure of 120/80.
If your blood pressure starts to rise and remains at a level above 120/80, then you are described as being “pre-hypertensive”, and while this is not serious in itself, it is an indication that you may be at risk of developing hypertension and the problems associated with it. Once your blood pressure reaches, and maintains, a level of 140/90 or above, you are said to be suffering from hypertension and action needs to be taken to reduce your blood pressure.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
Well, there are several factors at play and the first is a group over which we have little, if any, control. This group includes a low birth weight, a variety of genetic factors, certain forms of diabetes (in particular type-2 diabetes) and your age (as we grow older our arteries tend to become fibrous and lose their elasticity, resulting in a smaller cross-sectional area through which the blood can flow).
The second group of factors is much more within our control and includes leading a sedentary lifestyle, high levels of salt and/or saturated fats in the diet, being overweight, smoking, alcohol abuse, stress and working in certain occupations such as flying or motorway maintenance, which involves exposure to long periods of high level roadway noise.
The vast majority of these factors are of course treatable, and in many cases, a simple adjustment to our diet and the addition of some form of exercise into our daily routine is all that is needed to solve the problem. The difficulty however is that, without any real symptoms, most people simply don’t know that they are suffering from high blood pressure in the first place.
So how do you solve the problem?
Fortunately the answer to this question is very simple. All you need to do is to see your doctor on a regular basis (for most of us a couple of times a year will do the trick) and ask the doctor to check your blood pressure. The whole process is painless, simple and fast and will give you peace of mind and possibly save your doctor a lot of time, work and expenses later on when you are forced to present yourself at his office once hypertension has set in.
If, like most people, you are not so keen on visiting your doctor, then an excellent alternative today is to simply monitor your own blood pressure at home. A wide range of easy to operate and relatively inexpensive monitors are available, allowing you to keep an eye on your own health, and that of your family, in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Effects of Untreated High Blood Pressure
Because people with high blood pressure do not usually have any symptoms until the disease has reached an advanced stage, high blood pressure is often called the silent killer. That is why having blood pressure checked regularly is important.
The lack of symptoms is why some people who are aware they have high blood pressure do not take any steps to control and treat it. Because they feel “okay”, they think everything is fine. But if high blood pressure is left untreated, serious problems may develop over time.
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause strokes. As high blood pressure causes a person’s arteries to get narrower and narrower, it is harder for blood to get to the brain. That can potentially cause blot clots in the brain, cause a blood vessel in the brain to leak, or cause a blood vessel in the brain to rupture.
- Kidney disease can occur if high blood pressure is left untreated. If the arteries in the body are narrowed from sustained high blood pressure, the impaired flow of blood throughout the body can cause waste to build up in the blood because it is not getting to the kidneys often enough to discard all the waste products. As the waste builds up, it becomes more and more difficult for the kidneys to try and get rid of the waste, putting a big strain on the kidneys. This can cause the kidney functions to greatly diminish or even fail entirely.
- If the kidneys start to function at less than twenty percent of capacity, dialysis treatments will usually be needed. A kidney transplant would be an option to avoid having to get lifetime dialysis treatments if the person is a candidate for a transplant and a kidney becomes available.
- Problems with a person’s eyes can also occur as a result of untreated high blood pressure, causing a loss of vision if it gets severe enough. High blood pressure can also lead to memory loss and dementia.
- Heart problems are another serious problem that can develop if high blood pressure is left untreated. The arteries in the heart can become hard and stiff from restricted blood flow, causing the hardening of the arteries.
- It is common for people with untreated high blood pressure to have plaque accumulate in the major arteries of the heart. The plaque deposits reduce blood flow to the heart and can eventually cause a heart attack. High blood pressure narrows the arteries and blood vessels in the body. Getting oxygen-rich blood to the heart becomes more difficult as the arteries get narrower. If the heart cannot get enough oxygen, it will cause a heart attack.
Managing High Blood Pressure
Detection. Everyone should be having your blood pressure checked on a regular basis. Nearly all physicians will determine a person with high blood pressure with two or more readings that are taken on different times. An unchanging blood pressure reading of 140/90mm Hg or higher is regarded as high blood pressure, the other term is hypertension.
A few people have high blood pressure just when they travel to the physician’s office, it is called white-coat hypertension. If your physician sees this, you may be expected to record your blood pressure at home or expected to put on a device known as an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This device is normally worn for 1 day and can take blood pressure every 30 minutes.
Prevention. You can take steps to stop high blood pressure by embracing a healthy way of life. These steps include keeping a healthy weight; staying physically energetic; conforming to a healthy diet plan that includes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods; selecting and cooking foods with less salt and sodium. And if you drink alcoholic beverages, drinking in moderation.
Treatment. You should find it crucial to take steps to maintain your blood pressure. The treatment end is blood pressure below 140/90 and lower for individuals with other conditions, like diabetes and kidney disease. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an efficient first step in both forbidding and mastering high blood pressure. If lifestyle modifications are not enough in controlling your blood pressure, it may be inevitable to add blood pressure medications to the mix.