High Blood Pressure Readings, Risk, Causes & Treatments

High Blood Pressure Readings, Risk, Causes & Treatments

 High Blood Pressre Warnings

What Is Hypertension?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a very common condition in older adults. The blood pressure is the physical force exerted by the blood as it pushes against the walls of the arteries. An elevated blood pressure means that the heart must work harder to pump blood. High blood pressure can also damage the walls of the arteries. With time, hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.

You can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues and can be detected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.

High blood pressure generally develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.

Symptoms of Hypertension

Hypertension may not produce any symptoms, even if you have had it for years. That’s why it is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer.” It’s estimated that 1 out of every 5 people with high blood pressure aren’t aware that they have this major risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. If not properly treated, high blood pressure can damage the heart and circulation, lungs, brain, and kidneys without causing noticeable symptoms.

Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels.

Although a few people with early-stage high blood pressure may have dull headaches, dizzy spells or a few more nosebleeds than normal, these signs and symptoms usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.

When to see a doctor

You’ll likely have your blood pressure taken as part of a routine doctor’s appointment.

Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18. Blood pressure should be checked in both arms to determine if there is a difference. Your doctor will likely recommend more frequent readings if you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Children age 3 and older will usually have their blood pressure measured as a part of their yearly checkups.

If you don’t regularly see your doctor, you may be able to get a free blood pressure screening at a health resource fair or other locations in your community. You can also find machines in some stores that will measure your blood pressure for free, but these machines can give you inaccurate results.

What Causes Hypertension?

Risk

Primary (essential) hypertension

For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure, called essential hypertension or primary hypertension, tends to develop gradually over many years.

Secondary hypertension

Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure, called secondary hypertension, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:

  • Kidney problems

  • Adrenal gland tumors

  • Thyroid problems

  • Certain defects in blood vessels you’re born with (congenital)

  • Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs

  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines

  • Alcohol abuse or chronic alcohol use

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Blood pressure is given as a reading of two numbers, such as 110/70. The higher number (systolic) is the pressure when the heart beats. The diastolic, or lower number shows the pressure between the heartbeats, while the heart is refilling with blood. Normal blood pressure readings are lower than 120/80. The cause of most cases of hypertension is unknown. Occasionally, conditions of the kidney or adrenal gland are the cause of high blood pressure.

Risk factors

High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:

  • Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. Through early middle age, or about age 45, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.

  • Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure, also are more common in blacks.

  • Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.

  • Being overweight or obese. The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.

  • Not being physically active. People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of being overweight.

  • Using tobacco. Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. Secondhand smoke also can increase your blood pressure.

  • Too much salt (sodium) in your diet. Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.

  • Too little potassium in your diet. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.

  • Too little vitamin D in your diet. It’s uncertain if having too little vitamin D in your diet can lead to high blood pressure. Vitamin D may affect an enzyme produced by your kidneys that affects your blood pressure.

  • Drinking too much alcohol. Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than two drinks a day for men and more than one drink a day for women may affect your blood pressure.

    If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

  • Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you try to relax by eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol, you may only increase problems with high blood pressure.

  • Certain chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, such as kidney disease and sleep apnea.

Sometimes pregnancy contributes to high blood pressure, as well.

Although high blood pressure is most common in adults, children may be at risk, too. For some children, high blood pressure is caused by problems with the kidneys or heart. But for a growing number of kids, poor lifestyle habits, such as an unhealthy diet, obesity and lack of exercise, contribute to high blood pressure.

Complications

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:

  • Heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.

  • Aneurysm. Increased blood pressure can cause your blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening.

  • Heart failure. To pump blood against the higher pressure in your vessels, your heart muscle thickens. Eventually, the thickened muscle may have a hard time pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs, which can lead to heart failure.

  • Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys.This can prevent these organs from functioning normally.

  • Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes.This can result in vision loss.

  • Metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a cluster of disorders of your body’s metabolism, including increased waist circumference; high triglycerides; low high-density lipoprotein (HDL); or “good,” cholesterol; high blood pressure; and high insulin levels.

    If you have high blood pressure, you’re more likely to have other components of metabolic syndrome. The more components you have, the greater your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke.

  • Trouble with memory or understanding. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may also affect your ability to think, remember and learn. Trouble with memory or understanding concepts is more common in people with high blood pressure.

Prehypertension: A Warning Sign

Prehypertension means that your blood pressure falls just above the normal level, corresponding to a systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89. About one-fourth of Americans have prehypertension, and these people have two times the risk of heart disease compared with those who have lower blood pressures. Lifestyle changes can help many people with prehypertension to lower their blood pressure.

The Hypertension Danger Zone

You are considered to have hypertension if your blood pressure measurements are 140/90 or higher, for either of the two numbers. At this level of blood pressure you may not have any symptoms. When blood pressure reaches 180/110 or higher, a serious condition known as a hypertensive crisis may occur. This can lead to stroke, kidney damage, heart attacks, or loss of consciousness. If you measure your blood pressure and it is this high, rest a few minutes and measure again. If it remains high, call 911. Symptoms of hypertensive crisis can include anxiety, nosebleeds, severe headache, and shortness of breath.

Who Gets High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is more common in older people. At age 45, more men have hypertension than women. By age 65, this is reversed and more women are affected. People with diabetes have a greater risk of hypertension than those without diabetes, and having a close family member with high blood pressure also increases your risk of developing it. About 60% of all people with diabetes also have hypertension.

Hypertension and Sodium

Sodium, a chemical found in salt, raises blood pressure by promoting the retention of fluid by the body. This increases the workload on the heart. The American Heart Association recommends an upper daily limit for sodium consumption of 1,500 mg. Checking food labels and menus can help you calculate how much sodium you are consuming. Processed foods are particularly high in sodium and make up about 75% of our sodium intake. Among these, lunch meats and canned soups have some of the highest levels of dietary sodium.

Hypertension and Stress

Stress leads to temporary elevations of blood pressure, but there is no proof that stress causes ongoing high blood pressure. Stress may have an indirect effect on blood pressure since it can influence other risk factors for heart disease. People who are under stress tend to engage more in unhealthy habits like poor nutrition, alcohol use, and smoking, all of which can play a role in the development of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Hypertension and Weight

Being overweight increases the risk of getting hypertension and increases the workload required of your heart. Diets designed to control blood pressure are often designed to reduce calories as well. Most of these diets require decreasing consumption of fatty food and sugars while increasing your intake of lean protein, fiber, fruits, and vegetables. A weight loss of just 10 pounds can make a difference in your blood pressure.

Hypertension and Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor for high blood pressure. The American Heart Association guidelines recommend the consumption of no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and no more than one drink a day for women. One drink is defined as one 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

Hypertension and Caffeine

Caffeine can bring on the jitters, but there is no evidence that it can cause long-term hypertension. However, especially for those not accustomed to caffeine, a caffeinated beverage might bring on a temporary rise in blood pressure.

Hypertension and Pregnancy

Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that develops in pregnancy. If not properly managed, it may develop into preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is elevated blood pressure and the leakage of protein into the urine by the kidneys. Preeclampsia can be dangerous to both mother and baby. After the baby is born, high blood pressure of pregnancy usually returns to normal levels.

Hypertension and Medicine

Certain medications contain ingredients that can elevate blood pressure. Cold and flu medications that contain decongestants are one example of drugs that raise blood pressure. Other kinds of medicines that can raise blood pressure are steroids, diet pills, birth control pills, NSAID pain relief medications, and some antidepressants. Talk to your doctor about the medications or supplements you may be taking that might affect your blood pressure.

‘Doctors’ Hypertension

Sometimes people have a higher blood pressure reading when they are in the doctor’s office. This may be due to anxiety or nervousness. For the most accurate readings, take your blood pressure at home at different times and share these measurements with your doctor. To determine if your readings are accurate, bring your home blood pressure monitor to the doctor’s office so that the device and your technique can be evaluated.

Hypertension and Children

Although it’s most common in older adults, hypertension can also affect children. The normal blood pressure for a child is dependent upon the child’s age, gender, and height. Your doctor can tell if your child’s blood pressure is abnormal. Children are at higher risk for hypertension if they are overweight, are African-American, or if they have a family history of the condition

Treatment: Exercise

Exercise is another lifestyle factor that can lower blood pressure. It’s recommended that adults get about 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. This can include activities like walking, bicycling, gardening, or other aerobic exercise. Muscle-strengthening activities are recommended at least twice a week.

Treatment: Diuretics

If diet and exercise are not sufficient to lower blood pressure, the first medications recommended are often diuretics or so-called “water pills.” These reduce sodium and fluid levels in the body to lower blood pressure. Taking diuretics means you will urinate more frequently. Sometimes, diuretics deplete potassium levels as well, which can lead to muscle weakness, leg cramps, and tiredness. Other side effects of diuretics can include elevated blood sugars in people with diabetes. Less commonly, erectile dysfunction can occur.

Treatment: Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are another drug used to treat hypertension. They work by slowing the heart rate and thereby decreasing the workload of the heart. They can be used to treat other conditions as well, including abnormal heart rate (arrhythmia). Side effects of beta-blockers can include dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, cold feet and hands, and erectile dysfunction.

Treatment: ACE Inhibitors

ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors are another class of antihypertensive drugs. They reduce the body’s levels of angiotensin II, a substance that narrows blood vessels. This means that arteries are more open (dilated) and the blood pressure is lower. Side effects of ACE inhibitors can include skin rash, dry cough, dizziness, and elevated potassium levels. Women taking ACE inhibitors should not become pregnant.

Treatment: ARBs

Instead of lowering angiotensin II levels, a related class of drugs called ARBs or angiotensin receptor blockers prevents the actions of angiotensin II on the arteries. This means the arteries stay more open and blood pressure is lowered. ARBs can take a few weeks to work. Side effects can include dizziness, muscle cramps, insomnia, and elevated potassium levels. As with ACE inhibitors, women taking ARBs should not become pregnant.

Treatment: Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers are drugs that reduce the movement of calcium into cells of the heart and vessels. This reduces the strength of heart contractions and relaxes the arteries, allowing them to remain more open, lowering blood pressure. Side effects of calcium channel blockers can include heart palpitations, dizziness, swollen ankles, and constipation. They should be taken with food or milk. Because of potential interactions, those taking calcium channel blockers should avoid alcohol and grapefruit juice.

Treatment: Other Medications

There are even more medication types that can lower blood pressure. Some of these are alpha blockers, vasodilators, and central alpha agonists. Your doctor may prescribe these medications if other medications have been ineffective or if you have another condition along with hypertension. Side effects can include fast pulse, palpitations, diarrhea, or headaches.

Living With High Blood Pressure

Hypertension often lasts a lifetime, so following a careful management plan is essential. Keeping your blood pressure under control can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure and can improve your quality of life.

Tests and diagnosis

Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Adults (measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg)

Category

Systolic

(top number)

Diastolic

(bottom number)

Normal

Less than 120

And

Less than 80

Prehypertension

120–139

Or

80–89

High blood pressure

     Stage 1

140–159

Or

90–99

     Stage 2

160 or higher

Or

100 or higher

To measure your blood pressure, your doctor or a specialist will usually place an inflatable arm cuff around your arm and measure your blood pressure using a pressure-measuring gauge.

A blood pressure reading, given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), has two numbers. The first, or upper, number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats (systolic pressure). The second, or lower, number measures the pressure in your arteries between beats (diastolic pressure).

Blood pressure measurements fall into four general categories:

  • Normal blood pressure. Your blood pressure is normal if it’s below 120/80 mm Hg. However, some doctors recommend 115/75 mm Hg as a better goal. Once blood pressure rises above 115/75 mm Hg, the risk of cardiovascular disease begins to increase.

  • Prehypertension. Prehypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg. Prehypertension tends to get worse over time.

  • Stage 1 hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 140 to 159 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 90 to 99 mm Hg.

  • Stage 2 hypertension. More severe hypertension, stage 2 hypertension is a systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 100 mm Hg or higher.

Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are important. But after age 60, the systolic reading is even more significant. Isolated systolic hypertension — when diastolic pressure is normal but systolic pressure is high — is a common type of high blood pressure among people older than 60.

Your doctor will likely take two to three blood pressure readings each at three or more separate appointments before diagnosing you with high blood pressure. This is because blood pressure normally varies throughout the day, and sometimes specifically during visits to the doctor, a condition called white-coat hypertension. Your blood pressure should be measured in both arms to determine if there is a difference. Your doctor may ask you to record your blood pressure at home and at work to provide additional information.

If you have any type of high blood pressure, your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a physical examination.

Your doctor may also recommend routine tests, such as a urine test (urinalysis), blood tests and an electrocardiogram — a test that measures your heart’s electrical activity. Your doctor may also recommend additional tests, such as a cholesterol test, to check for more signs of heart disease.

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Originally posted 2014-11-06 11:24:38.

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