High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the pressure of the blood flowing against the artery walls is above the normal range. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood the heart pumps and the blood flow resistance in the arteries. If the heart pumps more blood than normal, and the arteries are narrower than normal, the result is high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure can cause serious health problems, including heart attack, kidney failure and stroke. There are two types of high blood pressure: primary and secondary. Primary hypertension is high blood pressure that develops gradually over the course of time, and secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that results from an underlying medical condition.

Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure

Most people with high blood pressure do not have any symptoms. High blood pressure can gradually develop over the course of time without any symptoms. Prolonged and untreated high blood pressure may cause headaches, dizzy spells or nosebleeds.

Causes Of High Blood Pressure

In most cases, the cause of high blood pressure, especially primary hypertension, is unknown. Secondary hypertension may be caused by various conditions or medications including:

  • Kidney problems
  • Thyroid problems
  • Congenital defects in blood vessels
  • Birth control pills
  • Decongestants
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Obesity

Alcohol or illegal drug abuse may also lead to high blood pressure.

Risk Factors For High Blood Pressure

Risk factors for developing high blood pressure may include:

  • Family history
  • Being African-American
  • Increased age
  • Obesity
  • High sodium intake
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Lack of physical activity or exercise
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Chronic conditions such as kidney problems, hormone problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol may all increase an individual’s risk of high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Diagnosis And Measurement

Blood pressure is commonly measured during a physical exam. An inflatable arm cuff is fit around the arm and measures the blood pressure using a pressure-measuring gauge. This gauge yields two sets of numbers. The first number is the systolic reading, which is the pressure when the heart is beating. The second number is the diastolic number, the pressure when the heart is resting. High blood pressure occurs when the systolic reading is at 140 or higher and the diastolic reading is 90 or above.

High Blood Pressure Treatment

High blood pressure is often initially treated with lifestyle changes that may include:

  • Losing weight
  • Eating a healthy diet that is low in salt and fat
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Exercising and staying physically active
  • Quitting smoking

Hypertension that does not respond to lifestyle changes alone, is often treated with medication that may include alpha blockers, vasodilators, aldosterone antagonists, and central-acting agents. Treating any underlying conditions can also help to control high blood pressure.

Complications Of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a serious condition. Left untreated, hypertension may cause:

  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart attack
  • Aneurysm
  • Stroke

Controlling blood pressure can reduce the risks of these complications.

Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, is a goal that many people try to achieve in order to avoid the symptoms and complications of high blood pressure. Yet when blood pressure is too low, it can be a serious medical condition, potentially causing permanent damage to the heart and the brain.

Blood pressure is measured by the amount of pressure generated when the heart is pumping blood. Blood pressure is measured in two sets of numbers. The first number is the systolic reading, which is the pressure when the heart is beating. The second number is the diastolic number, the pressure when the heart is resting.

Maintaining a blood pressure equal to or lower than 120/80 is considered healthy, but if measurements go below 90 systolic or 60 diastolic, serious complications may arise. Some people have low blood pressure all the time, often with no symptoms, while others may develop it as a result of pregnancy, medication or dehydration, or after standing up or eating.

Symptoms Of Low Blood Pressure

While some people may not experience any symptoms from low blood pressure, others may experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

Treatment Of Low Blood Pressure

Many cases of low blood pressure can be treated with simple home remedies such as increasing salt intake, drinking more water and using compression stockings. It is important to address the underlying cause when treating low blood pressure. Certain medications can also help treat the condition. Although low blood pressure may not cause problems for most people, maintaining a healthy blood pressure is important in order to maintain health and prevent heart damage.