High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the pressure of the blood flowing against the artery walls is above the normal range. Blood pressure is measured in two sets of numbers. The first number is the systolic reading, which is the pressure when the heart is beating. The second number is the diastolic number, the pressure when the heart is resting. High blood pressure occurs when the systolic reading is at 140 or higher and/or the diastolic reading is 90 or above.
Primary hypertension – high blood pressure that develops gradually over the course of time.
Secondary hypertension – high blood pressure as a result of another medical condition.
High blood pressure gradually develops over the course of time without any symptoms. In the early stages of high blood pressure some people may experience headaches, dizzy spells or nosebleeds.
The causes of high blood pressure are not known. It cannot be cured but it can be controlled with lifestyle changes and prescribed medication. About one in three Americans have high blood pressure and most of them are not aware that they have it. High blood pressure does not have any signs, which is why it is so dangerous.
People at risk for high blood pressure usually have one or more of the following:
- Close relatives with high blood pressure
- Over 35 years of age
- Excessive use of salt in food
- Alcohol consumption
- Women using oral contraceptives
- Physically inactive
- Pregnant women
- Tobacco use
- Existing medical condition
- Reduced levels of potassium or Vitamin D
High blood pressure is a serious condition. Untreated, patients may experience the following:
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Heart attack
There are several things that can be done to reduce blood pressure, such as:
- Losing weight
- Eating a healthy diet that is low in salt and fat
- Limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks a day
- Becoming physically active
- Stopping use of tobacco products
- Taking prescribed medication
- Keeping a level blood pressure