High blood pressure has long been known as the ‘silent killer,’ more formally known as hypertension. Unfortunately, this frightening phrase ‘silent killer’ is all too accurate as high blood pressure does not present any noticeable signs or symptoms. The only way to determine your blood pressure level is to have it checked by a medical professional.
There is an option to check your blood pressure at your local pharmacy or by using an at-home monitor. However, remember that blood pressure machines outside your doctor’s office or the hospital may lack accuracy, the cuff size may not be correct, and the device must be used correctly.
This widespread condition is due to excessive force in the movement of blood moving against the artery walls. When this pressure is too high for too long, severe damage can occur and lead to heart disease. Therefore, high blood pressure is indicated when your reading is above the standard, acceptable level. Blood pressure is measured in two numbers; the top number represents systolic pressure while the bottom number represents diastolic pressure.
Systolic pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. Diastolic pressure is a measurement of the pressure in your arteries between the beats of your heart. Both of these measurements are expressed in millimeters of mercury or mm Hg. Sadly, many experience a heart attack or a stroke, at which time they learn they have high blood pressure.
While some individuals experience headaches or shortness of breath and sometimes nosebleeds while also having high blood pressure, these are not only linked to high blood pressure, so they cannot be relied upon. However, your doctor should routinely check your blood pressure as part of a regular check-up.
High blood pressure can arise from a few different causes. First, the reason is really not known and develops over several years. As many of us age, we may develop essential or primary hypertension. The second type is known as secondary hypertension and results from some other medical issues, medications, or health conditions. This type of high blood pressure can come on suddenly and be more aggressive than primary hypertension.
If you suffer from sleep apnea or kidney disease, you may risk high blood pressure. If you use illegal drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, or ecstasy, you may also increase your risk. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications may also elevate your blood pressure. These include some antidepressants, acetaminophen, and angiogenesis inhibitors.
There are many other risk factors outside of our control, including our age, race, and our family history. For example, our risk of high blood pressure increases with age, if we have other family members with high blood pressure, and if we are of African heritage.
Luckily, there are also risk factors that are within our control. We can reduce our risk of high blood pressure by maintaining a healthy body composition and weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding all tobacco products. Our diet and nutrition are also essential, so keep your use of salt to a minimum, keep your potassium level up, and don’t drink more than one to two alcoholic drinks each day. Not yet meditating or finding other ways to manage your stress? Unchecked high levels of stress can also increase your risk of high blood pressure.
While your doctor will assess your blood pressure along with all of your other health matters, there are general guidelines about the numbers that are helpful. For example, normal blood pressure is typically 120/80 mm Hg, so a higher reading indicates high blood pressure while a lower reading indicates low blood pressure.
High blood pressure is rated as elevated, Stage 1 hypertension, Stage 2 hypertension, or the most dangerous and emergency situation as a hypertensive crisis. Elevated blood pressure is noted when the reading is over 120/80. Stage 1 hypertension can range from 130 to 139 over 80 to 89. Stage 2 high blood pressure is above 140 over 90.
Be proactive, and get your blood pressure checked soon, and check it often. Then, make the necessary changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk of this silent and deadly disease.