Blood Pressure: Facts You Should Know

By on May 23, 2013
Blood pressure checking

Blood pressure, as the name indicates, is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels), which carry the blood throughout the body.

If we had no blood pressure at all, we would not be able to live. A healthy blood pressure is vital for a healthy body, supplying sufficient energy and oxygen to all parts of our body. As you have guessed right, problems can occur if your blood pressure is too high or too low.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and it contributes to hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis and the development of heart failure. Hypertension is often referred as the “silent killer”, because it does not exhibit any symptoms which are easily noticed until the situation becomes quite serious.

Blood pressure is usually indicated in two numbers. For eg: 120/80. Ever wondered what those top and bottom numbers mean? Doctors call them systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure.

Systolic

The top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).

Diastolic

The bottom number, which is also the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).

Categories of Blood Pressure

  • Normal:  Less than 120/80
  • Pre-hypertension:  120-139/80-89
  • Stage 1 high blood pressure:  140-159/90-99
  • Stage 2 high blood pressure:  160 and above/100 and above

Low blood pressure

  • Below 90/60mmHg

General Causes of Hypertension

Smoking, family history, obesity, excessive use of alcohol, lack of exercise, diet, kidney disease, endocrine disease, narrowing of the aorta, steroid medicines, contraceptive pill, pregnancy which can cause preeclampsia.

BP apparatus

Symptoms of Hypertension

People with markedly elevated blood pressure may develop headache, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea & vomiting, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

People often do not seek medical care until they have symptoms arising from the organ damage caused by chronic (ongoing, long-term) high blood pressure. The following types of organ damage are commonly seen in chronic high blood pressure.

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • Kidney failure
  • Eye damage with progressive vision loss
  • Peripheral arterial disease causing leg pain with walking (claudication)
  • Out-pouchings of the aorta, called aneurysms

Blood pressure facts

  • 69% of people who have a first heart attack have high blood pressure.
  • 77% of people who have a first stroke have high blood pressure.
  • 74% of people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is also a high risk factor for kidney disease

A single high blood pressure reading does not mean you have hypertension. Blood pressure can change throughout the day, it can rise when you are tensed or nervous. In order to check if you have high blood pressure, you should persistently have high readings every time. Similarly, one normal reading doesn’t mean you don’t have high blood pressure.

High blood pressure can and do damage your heart and kidneys, if left untreated.

Most men in their forties and women in their sixties develop high bloodpressure.

A 25% of hypertensive individuals do not even know that they have this reversible disease. Those who know and are getting treatments are showing successful results.

In most cases, the disease does not show any symptoms, it is a silent killer. So it is really important to get your blood pressure monitored before it starts harming your body organs.

High blood pressure is easily detectable and can be controlled as well. To get back your normal blood pressure reading, all you need is some lifestyle modifications and taking prescribed medications on time.

Cholesterol is bad, we agree, but if your ratio of good and bad cholesterol level is healthy, then your risk of a heart attack is very less. But high blood pressure is worse than cholesterol, because it puts lot of stress on your blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. In high blood pressure, the bad cholesterol particles can easily enter the inner lining of your vessel walls, eventually causing heart attack or stroke.

Blood pressure can change during a 24-hour period, due to stress, tension or various emotions, but no need to panic. Your average blood pressure changes very slowly. Hence, if you have stable blood pressure reading, then there is really no need to measure it more than once a week.

Salt control is beyond limiting salt consumption in your cooking. You have large amounts of salts in pickles, processed foods and papads, which you should try and avoid as well.

If you have inherited high/low blood pressure, then you are most likely to develop it. However, make sure that adopting certain lifestyle changes can help you avoid the disease, even if it runs in your family history. Eating a good diet, lowering the intake of sodium, exercising regularly, staying away from stress, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking are important changes that one needs to make.

High blood pressure related problems are not just an old age related problem. Young people are at a high risk of developing high blood pressure too! This is primarily due to lifestyle changes; due to which blood vessels tend to weaken ultimately increasing the risk of developing blood pressure related problems.

You can stop taking your medicine for high blood pressure, once you start feeling better. But if your doctor has prescribed some time period for your medicines, then follow what has been advised to you. Without your doctor’s consent, it can be dangerous for you to stop taking the medications completely.

It is not okay if one of the blood pressure readings is normal. When you or your doctor measure your blood pressure, it includes two numbers – one written on top (systolic), and the other below (diastolic). Most of us tend to pay more attention to the systolic rate rather than diastolic reading. Both of the numbers are very important. If either of your blood pressure readings is consistently above normal, then you need to take action right away.

Most of the high blood pressure patients fail to experience any symptoms. Even if you feel like superman, it is important for you to check your blood pressure at least once in six months, to avoid severe health complications.

Blood pressure is a complex and dynamic system that exerts a powerful effect on your heart health. It is imperative that you understand and take control of this important health measure. Learning about high blood pressure and how it can harm your health is the first step in controlling this condition – so you can remain healthy for years to come.

Image courtesy: melaleucablog.com , jrmcnd.wordpress.com

One Comment

  1. The Healthy Elephant (@HealthyElephant)

    May 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Magnesium and vitamin D levels are also important factors. An MTHFR gene mutation can be another reason for hypertension.

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