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What You Should Know About High Blood Pressure

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What You Should Know About High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure also known as hypertension is a serious condition
that affects adults in most countries, according to research. It’s
called the “silent killer” because people often have no symptoms, yet
it can lead to some serious and sometimes even fatal conditions.
Your blood moves through your body at a certain rate. According to
studies, a blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 mmHg is
considered normal. When you have high blood pressure, blood moves
through your arteries at a higher pressure, putting more pressure on
the delicate tissues and damaging your blood vessels. You are
diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) if your blood
pressure readings are consistently above 140/90 mmHg.

Causes of High Blood Pressure
For most cases of high blood pressure there is no known cause. This is
called primary hypertension. For others, certain medical conditions
like kidney or heart conditions can cause high blood pressure. This is
called secondary hypertension. Some medications like birth control
pills or over-the-counter cold medicines can cause high blood pressure
as well. Blood pressure may or may not return to normal upon
discontinuation of the medication.
High Blood Pressure Risk Factors
There are many risk factors for high blood pressure. Some factors you
cannot change. Others are modifiable based on your lifestyle.

Risk factors you cannot change include:

• Age: Older adults are at greater risk for high blood pressure.

• Gender: Women over 65 are more likely to have higher blood
pressure, and men under age 45 are more likely to have high blood
pressure than women.

• Race: African-Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure.

• Family history: If your direct family members (parent or
sibling) have high blood pressure, you are more at risk.

Factors that are variable include:
• Being overweight
• Not exercising enough
• Eating an unhealthy diet
• Consuming excess salt
• Drinking alcohol
• Smoking
• Lack of adequate sleep
• Stress

Your doctor can diagnose if you have high blood pressure by simply
using a blood pressure monitor to measure your blood pressure. This
monitor records your systolic blood pressure (SBP), the top number,
and your diastolic blood pressure (DBP), the bottom number. There are
a few types of high blood pressure depending on severity.
• Pre hypertension: 120/80 mmHg or higher
• Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140/90 mmHg or higher
• Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160/100 mmHg or higher
• Hypertensive crisis (a life-threatening condition): 180/110
mmHg or higher

Your doctor will also review your health history and risk factors and
perform a physical exam to make a diagnosis.

The test to determine if you have high blood pressure is simple and
non-invasive. Your doctor will measure your blood pressure using a
monitor with a cuff. Your doctor may do this several times over a few
appointments to get an accurate reading because your blood pressure
can change depending upon many factors, some as simple as your mood at
the time the measurement is taken. Your doctor may also order:

• Blood tests
• Urine tests
• Electrocardiogram (ECG)
• Chest X-ray
• Computed tomography (CT) scan
• Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
• Exercising and losing weight
• Beginning a smoking termination plan
• Trying to reduce stress with some relaxation techniques

Treatment for high blood pressure varies from changing lifestyle
choices to using medications. If your increased blood pressure is not
severe your doctor will probably recommend lifestyle modifications
first.

Your primary care doctor will treat most cases of high blood pressure.
You may require more appointments depending on your blood pressure
levels. If your doctor thinks you have other cardiac conditions (which
are common complications of chronic high blood pressure), you may be
referred to a doctor who specializes in heart problems (a
cardiologist).

High blood pressure is a silent killer because it can lead to some
very serious complications. High blood pressure can stretch out your
arteries and weaken them (an aneurysm). It can lead to an abnormal
heart rhythm (arrhythmia). It can also make you more likely to have a
heart attack or heart failure, kidney problems, or even a stroke.
If you have a family history of high blood pressure, you should work
with your doctor on reducing your risks. You should also take the

following measures:

• Eat a healthy low-sodium diet.
• Exercise regularly.
• Try to maintain a healthy weight.
• Quit smoking.
Be sure to take your medication for high blood pressure as directed
and monitor your blood pressure at home with a monitoring device. Talk
to your doctor if you have any concerns about high blood pressure.
Remember to take small steps today for a greater reward tomorrow.

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