High Blood Pressure: What You Must Know

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  • Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is a condition that affects millions; 25 percent of all Americans have it or will develop it. Blood pressure is the force of blood that presses against the walls of your arteries. When it’s too high, the heart’s workload increases, and over time can cause damage to the arteries, and can eventually lead to strokes or heart and kidney disease. In most cases, people are unaware of having Hypertension because there are no visual or outward symptoms. As a matter of fact, one out of five people with Hypertension have no idea that they have the condition.
  • What’s Normal - And What’s Not Typically, blood pressure readings should be around 120/80. The top number, or systolic number, shows the pressure when your heart is beating. The lower number, or diastolic number, measures the rest between heartbeats while the heart refills with blood. Abnormal levels are between 120 to 139 over 80 to 89. If your readings are within this range, you have twice the risk of developing heart disease than if your readings were lower. And even if your numbers are slightly higher, in the 140/90 range, you may still have no symptoms. Numbers in the range of 180/110 can indicate that you are having a hypertensive crisis, and you should call 911 immediately. If your readings stay above those numbers for an extended period of time, you are likely to suffer from a heart attack, stroke or kidney damage. There are symptoms for this level of blood pressure, including nosebleeds, severe headaches, a feeling of anxiety, and shortness of breath.
  • Genetic Factors And Salt Intake Research suggests that African Americans are more likely to develop hypertension because they are prone to be more sensitive to salt than others. Salt can affect everyone, though. Sodium, the leading component of salt, is capable of raising blood pressure by causing the body to retain fluid, which can lead to increased work on the heart. Consuming less than 1,500mg of sodium is the daily recommendation from the American Heart Association. If you’re watching your sodium intake, be sure to avoid processed foods. Lunch meats and canned soups are prime suspects.
  • Stress Stress is a leading cause of blood pressure spikes. It can lead to other unhealthy habits like poor dieting, increased alcohol intake, or smoking. Any of these can lead to higher blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Weight Obesity consistently strains the heart to work more, and it can increase your risk of high blood pressure. Cutting out fatty foods, processed sugar and salts will help lower your numbers. Substitute fruit and vegetables, plus lean protein and fiber. If you are overweight, losing a couple of pounds can also make all the difference in the world.
  • Alcohol And Caffeine Alcohol can increase your blood pressure if taken in excess. The American Heart Association says men should have no more than two drinks per day and one for women. One drink is defined as 12oz. of beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5oz of 80-proof liquor or 1oz. of 100-proof. Caffeine on the other hand has not been directly linked to increasing blood pressure although there have been temporary spikes after consuming caffeine. According to the AHA, it is ok to have 1 to 2 cups a day.
  • Medicine Decongestants like cold and flu remedies are one of several classes of medicine that can cause your blood pressure to increase. Other types can include pain relievers, steroids, diet pills, birth control pills and antidepressants. Always consult with your doctor before considering starting any new medicines that can have an effect on your blood pressure.
  • Self-care: Check yourself regularly Sometimes people can have a high reading only when they visit the doctor’s office. Perhaps they’re nervous or there’s some other reason that increases it while at the office. So, it is recommended to take additional, regular readings outside of doctor visits, especially if you feel you could develop hypertension. Chart your readings and be sure to share them with your doctor.
  • Self-Care: Exercise Consistent exercise is a surefire way to lower your blood pressure for good. The usual recommendation is about 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise per day. Possible activities include brisk walking, riding your bike, aerobic exercise, and even gardening. Resistance training or muscle strengthening activities are also recommended at least twice a week in order to give all major muscle groups some attention. Your body will thank you for the increased strength and lowered blood pressure.
  • Self-Care: De-stressing Meditation, if done correctly can put your body into a state of deep rest, which is a fantastic way of lowering your blood pressure. Yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing are all great ways to lower it. Relaxation techniques work best if combined with other lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. But beware of herbal therapies. They can interfere with your other medications . Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking any type of herbal or dietary supplements.
  • Medicines There are a variety of medications that can help assist in lowering blood pressure. Vasodialators, alpha blockers, and central agonists are all designed to relax the blood vessels and increase blood flow. Side effects can include dizziness, fast or irregular heartbeats, headaches, or diarrhea. Here are some others:
  • Beta Blockers Their primary function is to slow the heart rate, so the heart doesn’t have to work so hard. They can be used to treat other conditions such as abnormal heart rate (also known as heart arrhythmia). Side effects can include insomnia, fatigue, and erectile dysfunction to name a few.
  • ACE Inhibitors These are meant to reduce your body’s supply of Angiotensin II, a substance that makes the blood vessels contract and narrow. This results in a more relaxed and dilated arteries, which causes less stress on your heart. Side effects can include coughing, skin rash, increased levels in potassium, and dizziness. Women who take these medicines should not be pregnant or trying to become pregnant.