Have you ever been to the doctor and had your blood pressure reading taken? Doctors will routinely perform a blood pressure reading to check the condition of your pumping heart and some other important factors regarding your health. Your blood pressure will go up and down naturally throughout the day depending on what you are doing, especially if you are doing exercise. High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is permanently higher than normal. In this article, we will explain what is High Blood pressure and what can be the causes of High Blood pressure.
So what is Blood Pressure exactly?
The heart is an amazing mechanism and plays a very important role in pumping blood around the body through the blood vessels. Each time the heartbeats, it sends blood to every tissue and organ of the body via arteries. Blood returns to the heart through the veins, when a collaborative effort of the skeletal muscles squeezes the veins and pumps blood back into the heart. Blood pressure is the amount of force exerted on the artery walls by the pumping blood. High blood pressure (hypertension) means that your blood is pumping with more force than normal through your arteries.
Blood pressure is measured by using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer or a blood pressure monitor. A sphygmomanometer has an inflatable cuff that is placed around the arm. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It has two numbers.
- Top number (systolic pressure). The first, or upper, number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- Bottom number (diastolic pressure). The second, or lower, number measures the pressure in your arteries between beats.
Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including:
- heart attack
- heart failure
- kidney and eye damage.
Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected and you are likely to have your blood pressure taken as part of your routine doctor’s visit. Once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure won’t occur suddenly overnight and will usually develop over time. The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known but several things can play a role that can include unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and having obesity, can also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can also happen during pregnancy.
Several things may play a role in high blood pressure, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much salt in the diet
- Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
- Older age
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid disorders
- Sleep apnea
How can I control my blood pressure?
High blood pressure is very common in older people. As we age, our vascular system changes. Arteries get stiffer, so blood pressure goes up. This is true even for people who have heart-healthy habits. The good news is that blood pressure can be controlled in most people.
There are many lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of high blood pressure:
- Keep a healthy weight. Being overweight adds to your risk of high blood pressure. Ask your doctor if you need to lose weight.
- Exercise every day. Moderate exercise can lower your risk of high blood pressure. Set some goals so you can exercise safely and work your way up to exercising at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise plan if you have any health problems that are not being treated.
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products may help to lower blood pressure.
- Cut down on salt. As you get older, the body and blood pressure become more sensitive to salt (sodium), so you may need to watch how much salt is in your diet. Most of the salt comes from processed foods (for example, soup and baked goods). A low-salt diet, such as the DASH diet, might help lower your blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about eating less salt.
- Drink less alcohol. Drinking alcohol can affect your blood pressure. Men should not have more than two drinks a day and women no more than one a day to lower their risk of high blood pressure.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. If you smoke, quit. You are never too old to quit, and the health benefits of quitting can be seen at any age.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Tell your doctor if you’ve been told you snore or sound like you stop breathing for moments when you sleep. This may be a sign of a problem called sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea and getting a good night’s sleep can help to lower blood pressure.
- Manage stress. Relaxing and coping with problems can help lower high blood pressure.
If you have read this article and feel that you might be a risk of high blood pressure, it is important to see the doctor for a check-up and a heart health check.