Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries. When the doctor measures your blood pressure, the results are given in two numbers. The first number called Systolic blood pressure is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood. The second number called Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood. Your blood pressure is usually given as the systolic blood pressure over the diastolic blood pressure such as 138/72. Normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80. This is equal to 120/80.
What is considered high blood pressure for older adults?
High blood pressure is now generally defined as 130 or higher for the first number or 80 or higher for the second number(previously it was 140/90). If your blood pressure is above 130/80 your doctor will evaluate your health to determine what treatment is needed to balance the pros and cons in your situation.
High blood pressure or hypertension, happens when our blood pressure increases to unhealthy levels. Blood pressure measurement takes into account how much blood is passing through our blood vessels and the amount of resistance blood meets while the heart is pumping. Narrow arteries increase resistance. If your arteries are narrower blood pressure will tend to be high. And the increased pressure continuing for the long term can cause health issues like heart diseases.
Hypertension develops over the course of several years. It does not have symptoms but it has the power to damage blood vessels and organs especially the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys. It is important to detect the disease early. Regular blood pressure readings can help the doctor notice any changes. Hypertension can be treated both by medications and lifestyle changes. If it is not treated it can lead to severe health issues like heart attack and strokes.
Symptoms of hypertension
Hypertension is generally a silent condition. It’s symptoms include—1.Headaches
2.Shortness of breath
8.Blood in the urine
These symptoms need immediate medical attention. The best way to know if you have hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings.
There are two types of hypertension:-A. Primary hypertension—It is also called Essential Hypertension. It develops over time with no identifiable cause. Most of the people have this type of high blood pressure. A combination of these factors play a role in increasing blood pressure:-
1. Genes-Some people get hypertension genetically, due to genes. It may be from gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from your parents.
2.Physical Changes-Sometimes certain changes in the body maybe because of other issues in the body.
3.Environment– Unhealthy lifestyles like lack of physical activity and poor diet can prove to be harmful to the body. You can suffer from weight problems also because of bad lifestyle choices.
B. Secondary hypertension—It starts quickly and can become more severe than primary hypertension. Some conditions that may cause secondary hypertension are-Kidney disease, Obstructive sleep apnea, Congenital heart defects, Thyroid problems, Side effects of certain medications, Use of illegal drugs, Alcohol abuse or it’s chronic use, Adrenal gland problems, Certain endocrine tumors.
You can diagnose hypertension by taking a blood pressure reading. A hypertension diagnosis is rarely given after just one reading. The doctor would need to see evidence of a sustained problem. It’s because your environment can contribute to increased blood pressure. The tests done to detect high blood pressure will include-Urine tests, cholesterol screening and other blood tests, ECG, Ultrasound of your heart, or kidneys.
The blood pressure measurement has two readings, one of systolic pressure. It is the first or top number. It indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and pumps out blood. The second one is diastolic pressure. This is the second or bottom number. It’s the reading of the pressure in your arteries between beats of your heart.
Five categories define blood pressure readings for adults—–1.Healthy-A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury(mm Hg).
2. Elevated-The systolic number lies between 120 and 129 mm Hg and the diastolic number is less than 80 mm Hg. Blood pressure is not treated with medication. The doctor may encourage lifestyle changes to lower the high numbers.
3.Stage 1 hypertension-The systolic number is between 130 and 139 mm Hg or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
4.Stage 2 hypertension-The systolic number is 140 mm Hg or higher or the diastolic number is 90 mm Hg or higher.
5.The hypertensive crisis-The systolic number is over 180 mm Hg or the diastolic number is over 120 mm Hg. Blood pressure in this range requires urgent medical attention. If there occur symptoms like chest pain, headache, shortness of breath, visual changes then medical attention must be provided fast.
A blood pressure reading is taken with a pressure cuff. So to get accurate reading it’s important to fit it well. Blood pressure readings are different for children and teenagers.
Medications for high blood pressure are:-
Some people go through a trial-and-error way while taking blood pressure medications. Some of the medications used to treat hypertension are—1. Beta-blockers– These make your heart beat slower and with less force. This lowers the amount of blood pumped through your arteries with each beat which lowers blood pressure. It also blocks certain hormones in the body that can raise blood pressure.
2. Diuretics-High sodium levels and extra fluid in the body can increase blood pressure. Diuretics are also called ‘water pills‘ which help the kidneys to remove excess sodium from the body. When sodium is removed the extra fluid in your bloodstream moves in the urine which helps lower blood pressure.
3.ACE Inhibitors-Angiotensin is a chemical that causes blood vessels and artery walls to tighten and narrow. ACE(Angiotensin Converting Enzymes)Inhibitors prevent the body from producing this chemical. This helps blood vessels relax and reduces blood pressure.
4. Angiotensin 2 Receptor Blockers(ARBs)-While ACE Inhibitors aim to stop the creation of angiotensin, ARBs block angiotensin from binding with receptors. Without this chemical blood vessels don’t tighten. This helps relax vessels and lowers blood pressure.
5. Calcium Channel Blockers-These medications block some of the calcium from entering the cardiac muscles of your heart. It leads to less forceful heartbeats and lower blood pressure. These medicines also work in the blood vessels causing them to relax and further lowering blood pressure.
6.Alpha-2 Agonists-This type of medication changes the nerve impulses that cause blood vessels to tighten. This helps blood vessels to relax which reduces blood pressure.
Home remedies for high blood pressure
Some remedies help to control blood pressure. They are—-
1. Developing a healthy diet-A diet healthy for the heart is vital to reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important to manage hypertension and reduce the risk of complications. These complications include heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. A heart-healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins like fish.
2. Increased physical activity-Doing exercises and staying active helps a man in several ways. It apart from aiding in weight loss helps to reduce stress, lower blood pressure naturally and strengthen the cardiovascular system. We should exercise regularly for a fixed span of time.
3. Manage stress-Exercise is a great way to manage stress. Some other activities which can be helpful are—Medication, Deep breathing, Massage, Muscle relaxation, Yoga or Tai chi.
4. Adopting a cleaner lifestyle-You may well try and quit smoking. The chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the body’s tissues and harden blood vessel walls. And drinking alcohol too increases your blood pressure.
These are some healthy dietary recommendations for people with high blood pressure:-
- Eat more plant foods, less meat- A plant-based diet helps to increase fiber and reduce the amount of sodium and unhealthy saturated and trans fat you take from dairy foods and meat. Eat fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains and opt out from eating red meat. Instead you may try healthier lean proteins like fish, poultry or tofu.
2.Reduce dietary sodium– The daily sodium intake should be between 1500 mgs to 2300 mgs. Eat fresh food and avoid eating restaurant and prepackaged foods which are high in sodium.
3. Do not dare to be a sweet tooth-Sugary foods and beverages contain empty calories and no nutritional content. If you have a sweet craving, eat fresh fruits or small amounts of dark chocolate because eating dark chocolate reduces blood pressure.
High blood pressure during pregnancy
Women with hypertension are prone to imbalance and giving birth by them can be quite risky for both the mother and the child. So it’s very important to closely monitor the would-be mother as well as it can be. Women with high blood pressure are more likely to develop complications. Pregnant women with hypertension may have a slow functioning kidney .Babies born to mothers with hypertension may have a low birth weight and be born prematurely. Some women may develop hypertension during the time of their pregnancies. Many kinds of high blood pressures can simultaneously develop. And developing hypertension during pregnancy may increase your risk of having it for life.
In many cases pregnant women with hypertension may develop preeclampsia during their pregnancies. And this condition of increased blood pressure can cause complications in the kidney and in multiple other organs. It can lead to high protein levels in the urine, liver function problems, fluid in the lungs, visual problems. And if this condition worsens the risk levels increase for both the mother and the baby. Preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia which can cause seizures. Complications for the baby include low birth weight, early and still births. There is no known easy way to prevent preeclampsia, the only way to treat the condition is to deliver the baby.
The effects of high blood pressure or complications of hypertension on the body are—
1.Damaged Arteries-Healthy arteries are flexible and strong and the blood flows freely without any obstruction through them. But hyper tension makes arteries tougher, tighter and less elastic. This condition makes it easier for deposition of dietary fats in your arteries thus restricting the blood flow. This damage can lead to increased blood pressure, blockages, heart attacks and strokes.
2.Damaged Heart-Hypertension makes your heart work harder. The increased pressure in the blood vessels makes the muscles of the heart to pump more freely and with more force than a healthy heart should. It will lead to an enlarged heart which may be risky for your health. The risk factors are heart failure, arrhythmias, sudden cardiac death.
3.Damaged Brain-The brain needs a continuous, healthy supply of oxygen-rich blood to function well. High blood pressure can reduce the supply of blood to the brain which is of these types—1.Temporary blockages of blood flow to the brain are called Transient Ischemic Attacks(TIAs).
Significant blockages of blood flow cause brain cells to die. It is known as a stroke. Uncontrolled hypertension can affect your memory and certain basic and very important abilities like the power to learn, recall, speak and reason.
Some healthy tricks to control the menace of high blood pressure are—
1.Eat healthy—Eat heart-healthy foods and plant food too. Aim to eat more than seven helpings of fruits and vegetables each day. Avoid fatty foods. Have an idea of the average size of your dinner plate. Do not eat meats alone, create a dish that uses meat as a condiment. Instead of eating a steak with a side salad, you may try a bigger salad topping it with a portion of your favorite meat.
2.Cut out sugar from life—Try to stay away from direct sugar and incorporate fewer sugar-sweetened foods, including flavored yoghurts, cereals, sodas. Try to loose weight as much as you can.
3.Monitor your blood pressure regularly-–Keep a log of your blood pressure readings and let a doctor see it. Do so regularly.
Though blood pressure is a menace in its own right but a controlled life and maintained health can really turn the tables around and give longevity a good try yet again. We can manage our lives better if we follow all the precautions and abide by the restrictions given to lead a balanced and happy life, it’s still not too late. You better go for it.