Often by the time you realise you suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure, it may be too late. With few outward signs, the first you know may be the heart attack or the stroke that you suffer.
If you have hypertension / high blood pressure you need to understand what it means and the increase in occurrences of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure amongst sufferers is notably higher. So what is it exactly?
When blood passes through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal - this is high blood pressure and it can caused by a number of things, mainly constriction of your arteries. This causes the heart to strain in order to keep your blood moving round your body.
You can also get a plaque-like substance formed around arteries and this hardened surface narrows the arteries creating higher pressure. Also, blockages or blood clots can become lodged in narrow arteries leading to strokes or heart attacks.
Due to this additional hard work of pumping through contstricted arteries, the heart could become enlarged which could then lead to congestive heart failure if left unchecked for a prolonged period of time.
This is a common condition and high blood pressure sufferers often do not know they have it. Where high blood pressure is caused by a known factor, such as another medical disorder or medicine, it is called secondary hypertension - Primary Hypertension being those cases where there is no known cause. In secondary cases, blood pressure can usually be returned to normal when the root problem is corrected.
Always refer to your local GP or medical practitioner for an accurate reading of blood pressure to keep you in tune with your own body. Figures you receive are split in two, a high reading and a low reading. The higher figure refers to systolic pressure (maximum pressure on the arteries while the heart is pumping the blood out). The lower figure refers to the diastolic pressure (pressure between heart-beats when the heart is resting).
Results are recorded as systolic / diastolic pressure e.g. 140/70 mmHg. Blood pressure will be considered high in adults if it is consistently a reading of 140 mmHg systolic and/or 90 mmHg diastolic or higher.
High blood pressure is actually remarkably responsive to changes in diet and lifestyle. Some guidelines set out by the American Institute for Preventative Medicine for reducing blood pressure include:
- If you're overweight, lose weight.
- Don't smoke.
- Limit alcohol to two drinks or less a day.
- Reduce your salt intake. (This is helpful for many people). Use salt substitutes if your physician says it's okay.
- Get regular exercise at least three times a week.
- Learn to handle stress by practicing relaxation techniques and rethinking stressful situations.
- Take any prescribed blood pressure medicine as directed. Don't skip your pills because you feel fine or because you don't like the side effects. Tell your doctor if you have any side effects of the medicine such as dizziness, faintness, skin rash, or even a dry cough in the absence of a cold. Another medicine can be prescribed.
- Talk to your physician or pharmacist before you take antihistamines and decongestants. An ingredient in some of these can raise your blood pressure.