High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition that occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is too high. This can damage the arteries and lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and eye problems.
Blood pressure is measured in two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The systolic pressure is the pressure when the heart beats, and the diastolic pressure is the pressure between heartbeats. A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.
High blood pressure is defined as a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mmHg or higher. It is important to note that high blood pressure is often a silent condition, meaning that people may not have any symptoms. This is why it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
Causes of high blood pressure
The exact cause of high blood pressure is unknown in many cases. However, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, including:
Age: High blood pressure is more common in older adults.
Family history: If you have a family history of high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop it yourself.
Race: African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than people of other races.
Sex: Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure than women, especially before age 55.
Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of high blood pressure.
Smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the risk of high blood pressure.
Excessive alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure.
High cholesterol: High cholesterol levels can narrow the arteries and increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Diabetes: Diabetes can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Kidney disease: Kidney disease can cause the body to retain fluid, which can lead to high blood pressure.
Treatment for high blood pressure
The goal of treatment for high blood pressure is to lower blood pressure to a safe level. This can be done with lifestyle changes, medications, or a combination of both.
Lifestyle changes that can help to lower blood pressure include:
- Eating a healthy diet: A healthy diet for high blood pressure is low in salt and saturated and trans fats. It is also high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Exercising regularly: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Losing weight: If you are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight can help to lower your blood pressure.
- Quitting smoking: Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your blood pressure.
- Limiting alcohol consumption: Women should have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two drinks per day.
If lifestyle changes are not enough to lower blood pressure, medications may be prescribed. There are a number of different types of medications available for high blood pressure, and the best medication for you will depend on your individual needs.
Complications of high blood pressure
High blood pressure can lead to a number of serious health problems, including:
- Heart disease: High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
- Stroke: High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke.
- Kidney disease: High blood pressure can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney failure.
- Eye problems: High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the eyes and lead to vision problems.
Preventing high blood pressure
The best way to prevent high blood pressure is to make healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. If you have any risk factors for high blood pressure, it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.