Blood Pressure – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Complications

By the year 2025 more than 1.56 billion people worldwide, would have developed hypertension as predicted by the CDC. In the USA, one out of every 3 people above 20 years is found to have high blood pressure (hypertension). Every year, more than 7 million people die due to blood pressure and its related illness, in America. By controlling blood pressure thousands of deaths due to heart attack can be prevented. The main cause of increasing numbers is current lifestyle with less/no physical activity and high salt diet and eating junk foods.

Key Points On Blood Pressure :

A person is said to have blood pressure or hypertension if the reading is 140/90 mm of mercury in the instrument. Blood pressure develops primarily due to modern lifestyle and physical inactivity. Certain medical conditions like kidney problem can cause high blood pressure. Sphygmomanometer is used to measure blood pressure. Treatment for blood pressure includes medication combined with change in lifestyle and diet modification.

Definition :

Blood pressure can be defined as the force with which blood flows against the walls of blood vessels. The rate at which heart pumps blood determines the blood pressure. Blood pressure is said to be normal if the reading in the blood pressure monitor remains 80/120 (diastolic/systolic). BP can increase considerably if more blood is pumped out from your heart and similarly if the arteries path gets narrowed due to deposits of fat or plaque it can increase your blood pressure. If the blood through the walls of blood vessels with high force it causes hypertension or high blood pressure. BP can damage heart increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke and can damage the vital organs like kidney and in severe cases it can be fatal.

blood pressure

Systolic and Diastolic Pressure :

There are 2 parts in blood pressure measurement. First/top number is known as systolic pressure which is the rate at which your heart pushes blood through the arteries. Second/bottom number is the diastolic pressure which the blood pressure rate when the heart is not pumping any blood. Normally diastolic pressure will always be lower in number. If the reading of blood pressure is anywhere between 120/80 to 140/90 it indicates you are likely to develop high BP in future.

If the reading is 140/90 or above it means you have hypertension. The measurement of BP would be higher in range shortly after exercising or when you are stressed or emotional. This would automatically get back to normal within few minutes. A person is said to have high blood pressure if his BP reading is higher than 140/90 most of the time without any obvious reason.

BP and Time :

Blood pressure is not the same all through the day. The reading would be high if you measure it as soon as you wake-up. It continues to be in high reading and reaches the peak during the mid-afternoon. Slowly it begins to drop reaching normalcy in the evening/night. If you are having abnormally high reading of BP during early morning or night it indicates that you have some health problem.

Measuring Blood Pressure :

Nowadays blood pressure monitors are available in many stores and pharmacies. Home BP monitor can be used to measure the hypertension at different intervals of time. All you have to do is to put on the cuff just few inches above your elbow and switch on the monitor button. The machine would automatically inflate the cuff measuring the BP and shortly it would start deflating and finally stop. The reading shown in the monitor is exactly your BP.

Causes Of Blood Pressure :

  • Lifestyle – Modern lifestyle has to be blamed for drastic increase in BP for many people. Lack of physical activity, eating plenty of junk foods (rich in salt) and intake of alcohol are the main factors for getting hypertension. Even adolescents are having high blood pressure due to this reason. Number of people developing blood pressure is steadily increasing due to physical inactivity and eating junk foods which makes them overweight causing blood pressure and related health issues.
  • Growing old – As one grows older he/she is at increased risk of getting high BP. Blood pressure is common in adults and elderly people.
  • Obesity – People who are overweight and obese are more likely to get high BP than others. Again more than half the adults are becoming overweight due to sedentary lifestyle and eating more (unwanted) food.
  • Family History – You are likely to develop high BP if any of your parents are already having it.
  • Stress – Increasing stress is another factor that cause increase in blood pressure. Many of us don’t know the method of managing stress which reflects in the form of various health problems at young age.
  • Primary and Secondary Hypertension – For many people no visible causes would be present for high blood pressure. In that case it is known as primary blood pressure which develops gradually. Secondary hypertension is induced BP caused by various medical conditions like kidney problems, thyroid problems, sleep apnea (sleeping disorder), adrenal glands problem and defective blood vessels. This can cause considerably high BP when compared with primary factor. Prolonged use of contraceptive pills and over the counter painkillers can also cause secondary hypertension. Certain medical conditions like Cushing syndrome, cancer and overactive thyroid gland can also cause high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Symptoms :

For most of the people high BP will not cause any symptoms and for this reason blood pressure is known as “silent killer”. Only few people may get symptoms of headaches and tiredness if blood pressure reaches high level but most of them will have no symptoms (asymptomatic). Symptoms like nosebleed, confusion of thoughts, shortness of breath and losing conscious are some signs when the blood pressure touches abnormally high levels posing danger to life. By the time the person reaches hospital he/she might die due to other complications like cardiac arrest or kidney failure.

blood pressure

Complications :

Adults above 45 years should make regular visits to the clinic for checking blood pressure. High blood pressure can do more damages than you think. Excess of flowing blood can significantly damage the artery walls thereby damaging the blood vessels and organs. Gradually the blood pressure becomes uncontrollable damaging organs permanently.

  • Stroke/Heart Attack – Uncontrolled blood pressure can cause atherosclerosis (thickened arteries) leading to heart attack or stroke.
  • Aneurysm – Due to heightened inflow of blood the blood vessels gets damaged gradually and at some point of time it bulges and gets weakened leading to aneurysm. In severe cases it may rupture posing risk to life.
  • Kidney Damage – Damage of blood vessels can occur anywhere in the body. When blood vessels get weak and narrowed in vital organs like kidney or liver it can cause permanent damage.
  • Loss Of Vision – If the blood vessel ruptures inside your eyes it can cause partial loss of vision. The excess of fluid gets collected and finally leaks causing macular edema.
  • Diabetes – Increasing blood pressure can affect the functioning of metabolism leading to high level of triglycerides, lowered level of good (HDL) cholesterol and increasing level of bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowered insulin secretion. The person is likely to develop diabetes and heart disease.

Risk Factors :

Factors like ageing (above 45 years), family history, being overweight/obese, and lack of physical active, smoking/drinking and eating too much of junk foods can cause high blood pressure. Adding excess of salt in daily diet and ignoring potassium rich foods can also increase the risk of BP. Having chronic medical issues like kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea can also cause blood pressure.

Diagnosis :

Blood pressure can be measured in regular clinic visits. If you are above 45 years and overweight you can make self measurement by buying a BP monitor for home. If high blood pressure is diagnosed, your doctor is likely to order for blood tests, urine tests, ECG and echocardiogram test to rule out any abnormality in heart. Confirmation of high BP will not be made on a single test alone. Your GP will recommend 24 hour monitoring of BP and check the changes before making a decision.

Treatment :

Not a single method is recommended for managing blood pressure. Doctors often suggest making lifestyle changes along with medications to control its effect.

Medications :

  • Several types of drugs are effective in managing blood pressure.
  • Diuretics like hydrocholorothiazide or chlorothalidone are prescribed so that kidneys can effectively dispose sodium and water effectively.
  • Beta blockers like Sectral or Tenormin are given to open the blood vessels properly so that heart can reduce its workload.
  • ACE inhibitors like Zestril, benazepril or capoten are used for relaxing the blood vessels by preventing formation of plaque inside.
  • Calcium channel blockers like Tiazec, norvasc and similar drugs are also given for relaxing the blood vessels.
  • Often your doctor may give one or two drugs to get the best effect depending on the case of patient.
  • Alpha blockers, vasodilators, central acting agents and aldosterone antagonists are prescribed if the above drugs are not effective in your case for controlling blood pressure.

Lifestyle Modifications :

Apart from taking medications one needs to make changes in lifestyle for managing the blood pressure effectively. In many cases lifestyle changes are equally effective as drug therapy.

  • Restrict The Salt Intake – By lowering the salt intake in daily foods you can even prevent high BP. Normal level of BP can be achieved gradually if you take only 5g of salt a day.
  • Reduce Your Weight – If you are overweight or obese try all possible methods to bring down your weight. If this is not possible you need to remain in the same weight to prevent further complications.
  • Physical Exercise – Doing regular aerobics for 5 days a week can help in reducing your BP considerably.
  • Take Medications As Prescribed – Do not skip doses of medicines prescribed by your doctor.
  • Quit/Reduce Alcohol – If you have BP reduce the alcohol intake gradually and finally quit drinking and smoking.
  • DASH Diet – Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet was developed by US National Institute of Health for lowering the BP even without taking any medication.
  • Practice relaxation therapy
  • To control stress take slow deep breathing exercise. If done regularly you can get excellent results.

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