High blood pressure (Hypertension) can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop. Left uncontrolled, you may wind up with a disability, a poor quality of life or even a fatal heart attack. Roughly half the people with untreated hypertension die of heart disease related to poor blood flow (ischemic heart disease) and another third die of stroke.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. A few people with high blood pressure may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren’t specific and usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.
Blood Pressure Readings and what they represent…
Optimal blood pressure: 120/80
Normal Range: 120-129/80-84
High Normal: 130-139/85-89
Grade 1 hypertension: 140-159/90-94
Grade 2 hypertension: 160-179/100-109
Grade 3 hypertension: >180/>110
Hypertension is commonly called the silent killer. High Blood Pressure often has no symptoms and many people are unaware that they have it. The only way to know for sure is to have it checked by a Health Care Professional.
YOU MAY BE AT RISK
- The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. Through early middle age, or about age 45, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
- Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack and kidney failure, also are more common in blacks.
- Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
- Being overweight or obese. The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
- Not being physically active. People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of being overweight.
- Using tobacco. Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. Secondhand smoke also can increase your blood pressure.
- Too much salt (sodium) in your diet. Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
- Too little potassium in your diet. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.
- Drinking too much alcohol. Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than two drinks a day for men and more than one drink a day for women may affect your blood pressure.
- Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you try to relax by eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol, you may only increase problems with high blood pressure.
- Certain chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, such as kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea.
A critical step in preventing and treating high blood pressure is a healthy lifestyle. You can lower your blood pressure with the following lifestyle changes:
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet to less than 1,500 milligrams a day if you have high blood pressure; healthy adults should try to limit their sodium intake to no more 2,300 milligrams a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).
- Getting regular aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking at least 30 minutes a day, several days a week)
- Limiting alcohol to two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women
Your Doctor may prescribe medication to help control your pressure. There are several types of drugs used to treat high blood pressure, including:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
- Calcium channel blockers
- Renin inhibitors
- Combination medications
SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF
A hypertensive (high blood pressure) crisis is when blood pressure rises quickly and severely. There are two types of hypertensive crises — both require immediate medical attention.
If you get a blood pressure reading of 180/110 or greater, wait about five minutes and try again. If the second reading is just as high, seek immediate medical help. Early evaluation of organ function is critical to determine an appropriate course of action. Your elevated reading may or may not be accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Shortness of breath
- Severe anxiety
Treatment of hypertensive urgency may involve adjusting or adding medications, but rarely requires hospitalization.
*If you have Hypertensive Readings of 180/110 or greater and/or have chest pain, chest pressure, shortness of breath, dizziness, light headedness, headache, vision changes, numbness, weakness, or abdominal pain! *
PLEASE CALL 911, as this is a Hypertensive Emergency and potentially life threatening!
Hypertensive emergencies generally occur at blood pressure levels exceeding 180 systolic OR 120 diastolic, but organ damage can occur at even lower levels in patients whose blood pressure had not been previously high.
The consequences of uncontrolled blood pressure in this range can be severe and include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory loss
- Heart attack
- Damage to the eyes and kidneys
- Loss of kidney function
- Aortic dissection
- Angina (unstable chest pain)
- Pulmonary edema (fluid backup in the lungs)
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