The amount of force exerted against the walls of the arteries as blood flows through them is known as blood pressure. When the blood pressure is high, it’s also known as hypertension. Having a high blood pressure means that the walls of the arteries are receiving too much pressure. If the pressure is chronologically high, it’s diagnosed as hypertension.
In India, 1 in every 3 adults suffers from hypertension. And if left untreated or uncontrolled, high blood pressure can cause many health problems. These conditions include heart failure, vision loss, stroke, and kidney disease.
What is high blood pressure?
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood throughout the body constantly – every second. Blood that is low on oxygen levels is pumped towards the lungs, where the blood is oxygenated. The oxygenated blood is pumped by the heart around the body to supply our muscles and cells. The pumping of blood creates pressure – blood pressure.
Anyone whose blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or more for a sustained period is said to have high blood pressure, or hypertension.
Blood pressure is usually divided into five categories:
Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Systolic mmHg 90 or less, or
- Diastolic mmHg 60 or less
- Systolic mmHg 90-119, and
- Diastolic mmHg 60-79
- Systolic mmHg 120-139, or
- Diastolic mmHg 80-89
Stage 1 Hypertension
- Systolic mmHg 140-159, or
- Diastolic mmHg 90-99
Stage 2 Hypertension
- Systolic mmHg over 160, or
- Diastolic mmHg over 100
Symptoms of high blood pressure
Most people with high blood pressure will not experience any symptoms until levels reach about 180/110 mmHg.
High blood pressure symptoms typically include:
- Lightheadedness, unsteadiness, and vertigo.
- Blurred or double vision (diplopia).
- Epistaxis – nosebleeds.
- Dyspnea – breathlessness, shortness of breath.
Anybody who experiences these symptoms should see a doctor immediately. Even children with high blood pressure may have the following signs and symptoms:
- Blurred vision.
- Bell’s palsy
Newborns and very young babies with high blood pressure may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Failure to thrive.
- Respiratory distress.
People diagnosed with high blood pressure should have their BP checked frequently. Even if yours is normal,frequent checks is recommended.
If the hypertension is not controlled the excessive pressure on the artery walls can lead to damage in the blood vessels (cardiovascular disease) and vital organs. Some of the possible complications of high blood pressure are below:
- Stroke – blood flow to the brain is impaired by blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain, and brain cells die.
- Heart attack – heart muscle dies due to a loss of blood supply.
- Heart failure – the heart struggles to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the whole body. This happens because after pumping blood against higher pressure into the blood vessels the heart muscle thickens.
- Blood clot – some blood converts from a liquid into a solid (thrombus). Some blood clots can cause serious complications.
- Aneurysm – a bulge forms on the wall of a vein, artery or the heart. The wall is weakened and may rupture.
- Kidney disease – hypertension often damages the small blood vessels in the kidneys, resulting in kidneys that do not work properly. Eventually the kidneys can fail completely (kidney failure).
- Eyes (hypertensive retinopathy) – untreated hypertension can lead to thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes, which can lead to vision loss.
- Metabolic syndrome – this is a disorder of the body’s metabolism, including an enlarged waistline, low blood HDL levels (the good cholesterol), hypertension, and high levels of insulin. If the patient has hypertension he/she is more likely to have other components of metabolic syndrome, significantly raising the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
- Cognitive and memory problems – if the high blood pressure continues untreated the patient’s ability to remember things, learn and understand concepts may be eventually become affected.
When we measure blood pressure, we gauge two types of pressure:
- Systolic pressure – the blood pressure when the heart contracts, specifically the moment of maximum force during the contraction. This happens when the left ventricle of the heart contracts.
- Diastolic pressure – the blood pressure between heartbeats, when the heart is resting and dilating (opening up, expanding).
When a person’s blood pressure is taken the doctor or nurse needs to measure both the systolic and diastolic pressures. The figures usually appear with a larger number first (systolic pressure), followed by a smaller number (diastolic pressure). If you are told that your blood pressure is 120 over 80 (120/80 mmHg), it means a systolic pressure of 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 80mmHg.
Recommended tests for high blood pressure
- Urine and blood tests
- Exercise stress test
- ECG (electrocardiogram)
- Holter monitoring
Treatment for high blood pressure depends on several factors, such its severity, associated risks of developing stroke or cardiovascular, disease, etc.
Slightly elevated blood pressure
The doctor may suggest some lifestyle changes if the patient’s blood pressure is only slightly elevated and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease considered to be small. In such case the high blood pressure can be treated through these activities:
- Regular Exercise
- Reducing Alcohol consumption
- Eating Healthily
- Lowering Salt Intake
- Losing Weight
- Reducing Caffeine Intake
- Relaxation Techniques
- Proper Sleep
For severe hypertension, it’ recommended that you get in touch with a doctor without delay. For more information or counseling on blood pressure treatments, please get in touch with our doctors at Grecian Hospital