High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (HBP) is a serious problem that affects millions of people each year. Often called the “silent killer”, it is a disease so stealthy that many people do not realize they even have an issue until it’s too late. If left untreated it can lead to a number of health problems, ranging from heart disease to stroke.
Fortunately, HBP is easy to detect, and easy to treat and manage. In the vast majority of adults, there is no single identifiable cause of high blood pressure. Referred to as primary or essential hypertension, it tends to build up over time. Factors ranging from gender and genetics to lifestyle and eating habits can all have an impact on if, when, and to what extent a person develops HBP. In cases of secondary hypertension, which occurs in about 5-10 percent of the cases, the blood pressure problems can be directly traced to an underlying condition or behavior. This type of hypertension generally occurs suddenly and can cause blood pressure to skyrocket. It can be caused by a number of things including kidney abnormalities, heart defects, as well as cocaine and amphetamine use. When a doctor measures your blood pressure, they are essentially determining how much force is being applied to the walls of your veins and arteries each time your heart pumps.
The two numbers used to describe a person’s blood pressure are the systolic (which is the force generated when the heart beats) and the diastolic (which is the amount of pressure present when the heart is at rest). The systolic is always the higher of the two due to the increase in pressure during a heartbeat. High blood pressure can be dangerous for a number of reasons. The arteries inside your body are made from muscle and an elastic type material. As blood is forced through the arteries, this elastic material stretches slightly as the systolic pressure increases. Higher pressures, over long periods of time, can cause this arterial tissue to stretch past what is considered to be healthy, leading to many problems. Overstretching can cause vascular weakness, which can lead to strokes when ruptures occur. It can also lead to vascular scarring, which can lead to increases in arterial clogging due to a buildup of cholesterol or plaque within the damaged artery. This can eventually lead to tissue and organ damage from a lack of blood flow through clogged arteries. It can also lead to an overall increase in workload for the entire cardiovascular system, which can eventually lead to heart failure.
There are a number of ways that one can manage their high blood pressure issues. There are many different medications that can be prescribed by your doctor which have been proven very effective at lowering blood pressure. However, most physicians recommend trying some changes in lifestyle before resorting to medications. Eating healthy foods and decreasing your salt intake can have a significant impact on hypertension. Regular exercise and physical activity can also play an important role in managing problems with blood pressure. And of course, if you smoke, then stopping is highly recommended.