High blood pressure: How to avoid it? How to live with it?
Published May 17, 2023 • By Polina Kochetkova
High blood pressure is a common health problem that affects over 103 million adults in the US. It is also known as hypertension, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications such as heart disease and stroke. It is important to understand high blood pressure and its causes to avoid these risks.
What is hypertension? How to measure your blood pressure? How to avoid hypertension? And what to do to cope with high blood pressure?
Keep reading to find out!
What is hypertension?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition in which blood pressure in arteries is consistently too high. This pushes the heart to work harder to keep pumping blood. This condition is considered to be a silent killer as it often has no symptoms, but if left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
How to measure blood pressure?
Your blood pressure can be checked:
- At a medical facility by the doctor.
- At a pharmacy with an electronic blood pressure monitor.
- At home by using blood pressure monitor yourself.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded as two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure in arteries when the heart beats, while diastolic pressure is the pressure in arteries when the heart is at rest between beats. The American Heart Association defines four stages of blood pressure activity:
- Normal blood pressure: At least 120/80 mm Hg for blood pressure.
- Elevated blood pressure: The bottom number is below, 80 mm Hg, while the top number is between 120 and 129 mm Hg.
- Stage 1 hypertension: The top number is in the 130–139 mm Hg range, while the bottom number is in the 80–89 mm Hg range.
- Stage 2 hypertension: The top number is at least 140 millimeters of mercury, or the bottom number is at least 90.
It is important to know that a hypertensive emergency or crisis is defined to have a blood pressure reading of more than 180/120 mm Hg. If you or someone you know has these blood pressure readings, get emergency medical treatment.
How to avoid hypertension?
High blood pressure is a serious condition, which can cause medical complications, therefore controlling your blood pressure, living a healthy lifestyle, and knowing your family's medical history can help prevent in avoiding this illness. Some ways to monitor your blood pressure and reduce possible hypertension include:
Keep an eye on your blood pressure.
Make sure to have your blood pressure checked frequently, either at home or in your doctor's office. According to The American Heart Association (AHA), high blood pressure frequently develops without any symptoms, therefore the only way to determine whether your blood pressure is rising is to take a blood pressure reading. Starting at age 20, the AHA recommends checking your blood pressure at least once every two years if your reading is below 120/80 mmHg. You might need to get your blood pressure tested more frequently if it is higher.
AHA points out that although the relationship between stress and blood pressure is still being researched, it is known that stress increases the risk of hypertension. Meditation may aid in managing both stress and high blood pressure.
Keep your weight under control.
Your weight is really important when it comes in preventing hypertension. Overweight people are advised to make an effort to reduce their weight, while healthy weight individuals should refrain from gaining additional weight. According to the AHA, decreasing as little as 10 pounds can help avoid high blood pressure if you are overweight or have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above.
Do regular exercises.
Getting active can lower your blood pressure risks. The American Heart Association suggests 75 minutes of intense exercise or 150 minutes of moderate aerobics per week. Two days a week of resistance training with free weights or other muscle-building exercises can be incorporated into the regimen as well.
Adopt a healthy diet.
Consuming nutritious foods can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure level. Limit your consumption of sugar, trans fat, and saturated fat while increasing your diet of fruits and vegetables. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which has been proven to aid in blood pressure management, may be followed. The eating plan focuses on the consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Red meat, salt, and sweets are among the foods to be avoided.
Who is prone to high blood pressure?
The causes of high blood pressure can be traced back to both genetic and environmental factors. For instance, some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure due to the inheritance of certain genes.
Additionally, environmental factors such as a diet high in sodium, stress, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol consumption, can contribute to the development of hypertension.
Cultural factors may also play a role in the occurrence of high blood pressure. For example, certain ethnic groups may be more susceptible to developing hypertension due to cultural practices such as consuming high-sodium diets or having a higher incidence of stress-related disorders.
Throughout middle life, men are more prone than women to have high blood pressure. However, women are more likely than men to acquire high blood pressure at an older age. Pregnant women with high blood pressure are more likely to develop high blood pressure in later life.
It is important to understand the various factors that can contribute to high blood pressure to prevent and treat this condition effectively.
How to live with hypertension?
The first thing to do when dealing with high blood pressure is to consult your doctor. Collaborating with medical professionals can help you understand the condition better, structure a personalized treatment plan and feel supported.
Making some healthy lifestyle choices can help you manage your condition if you have high blood pressure. This involves minimizing stress, engaging in regular exercise, and following a nutritious, low-fat diet. You can also give up smoking and only allow yourself to drink in moderation, to lower the risk of heart diseases.
It is advised to adjust your diet and lifestyle habits in order to lose extra weight, which puts additional pressure on the cardiovascular system. This is due to the fact that fat is created when our nutrient intake from meals exceeds our needs, with the surplus being stored as fat. In addition, our body uses its fat reserves when our intake is lower than its needs. For instance, increasing your energy resources through exercise while lowering your intake is vital to reduce weight. Even people with high blood pressure are recommended to engage in physical exercise. While it is true that exercise raises blood pressure, this only happens while exercising (and/or in the minutes that follow), but once the activity is over, it actually lowers blood pressure.
Additionally, specific medicines can be helpful when managing high blood pressure. Some of the medications that help with hypertension include: beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs or sartans).
All of these medications have specific ways of action, but they all have the same goal of decreasing blood pressure. They may have an impact on heart rate, blood volume, or reduced resistance. However, they do not have instant effects. In reality, the process of controlling blood pressure takes around 2 to 3 weeks.
Another way to feel less lonely during your hypertension battle is to join a patient organization. Some of the patient organizations with high blood pressure are: The American Society of Hypertension (ASH), American Heart Association (AHA) and Global Heart Hub.
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