What is High Blood Pressure and what can you do about it?

No doubt you will already have heard that many people call high blood pressure the ‘silent killer’. It has got this name because it has virtually no noticeable warning signs or symptoms until other serious health problems arise.  It can affect moms, dads, as well as parents, and children too. Unfortunately, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and in the United States it is also the leading cause of death, putting extra pressure on doctors to discover it before it is too late.

 
Your Blood

Now, as blood circulates through the body, it exerts pressure on the walls of the arteries, the more force it exerts, the higher the blood pressure, basically. This pressure naturally rises and falls during the day, but it is easy to test at home, and in fact this is often better than in a doctor's office. I'll explain why in a moment. To test the pressure that the blood is placing on the arteries, an inflatable cuff is placed around the upper arm, and this is inflated to squeeze the blood vessels in that arm. With digital blood testing devices being available now, it is easy to read the results of the blood pressure and heart rate. Normal blood pressure is a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 mmHg (you don't need to worry about the mmHg, that's just the units it's measured in, millimetres of mercury). Again you don't really need to worry about systolic (usually the top number, which represents the pressure when the heart contracts) or diastolic (the lower number when the heart is at rest). Often doctors refer to blood pressure as 120 over 80, which is a normal reading. If your systolic reading is between 120 to 139, or if the lower number, the diastolic reading is between 80 and 89, you are said to have pre hypertension. Should the systolic be greater than 140, or the diastolic goes above 90, then hypertension, or high blood pressure is diagnosed.

Now, as I mentioned above, there is no need to panic if you have high blood pressure readings in the doctor's office. I routinely have my blood pressure checked by my family doctor, and it's been getting higher and higher, but when I check it at the local drug store, it is normal, even below the accepted range. So, not believing me, my doctor suggested I invest in a blood pressure monitor, there are many types available, but I got one that runs off batteries, or an adapter. I checked my blood pressure twice a day for a month, and faithfully recorded the results. Now my monitor averages the last 30 readings, which is useful, because your blood pressure really does change a lot during the day. Anyway, my readings were always good at home, so on my next doctor's visit, I went along with my own monitor, and my sheet of results. We took my blood pressure with my unit, and with the doctor's, and it was about the same, and it was in fact very high, but all my readings at home were good. The conclusion was that I have "white coat hypertension", in other words my blood pressure goes up when I go to a doctor's office! Away from the office and my readings are fine!

So, my suggestion is to buy your own blood pressure monitor if you have any concerns over your blood pressure, and monitor it carefully for a month to see what happens. You will notice ups and downs, so you need to average out your results for a more accurate indication of your blood pressure. Check whether your blood pressure is in fact high, or whether it shoots up when you get inside the doctor's office. There are some good blood pressure monitors available from the reputable Amazon site - check out the bottom of this page!


Blood Pressure
 
Now, if after doing some checking, your blood pressure does remain high, you do not necessarily have to take medications. High blood pressure can be prevented or controlled through lifestyle changes of diet and exercise but sometimes that is not enough and medications are needed. 

Now sometimes the cause of high blood pressure is known, as in the case of pregnancy -related hypertension. This can cause harm to the mother's kidneys and other organs if left untreated, and is sometimes responsible for low birth-weight in the baby, but how do you treat this when you are pregnant? It is often thought that a high salt diet is a cause of high blood pressure, so this is something that can be easily watched, and a look at packaged food will show high levels of sodium in many products.

Why should we be worried about high blood pressure?

If left untreated, high blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause damage to the kidneys, resulting in kidney disease and the inability of the kidneys to filter the bodily fluids, which leads to waste building up in the body. It can also cause blindness, with too much pressure being placed on the eyes. This means that it is very important to check your blood pressure frequently, because you cannot necessarily tell that there is anything wrong. In actual fact, that is one of my complaints, I am not overweight, but my blood pressure does tend to be high these days, whereas my husband is overweight, but his blood pressure is well below the norm! It doesn't seem fair! 
Having high blood pressure does increase the chance of developing heart disease, a stroke, or other serious conditions, and it does run in families. I have seen estimates that as many as 1 in 3 American adults has high blood pressure or hypertension.  However, once it is detected it can usually be controlled. For anyone overweight, a diet to lose some of the excess is generally recommended, with emphasis on a healthy diet, with limited alcohol intake, and of course, no smoking! Exercise is an excellent idea, and learning to relax is an excellent consideration.

Take a look here to see how you can easily reduce your high blood pressure before it causes you other health problems. It's worth it to look after yourself. 

Remember that if in any doubt at all about your health, you should seek the advice of a medical practitioner, and not rely on the information given to you on the internet.

 

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