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Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped blood vessels, which include arteries, veins and capillaries. This pressure — blood pressure — is the result of two forces: The first force (systolic pressure) occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. The second force (diastolic pressure) is created as the heart rests between heart beats. (These two forces are each represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading.) Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down all the time, adjusting to your heart’s needs depending on what you are doing.

High Blood Pressure (HBP or hypertension) is when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high. This stresses your body’s blood vessels, hardening and tightening the walls of the arteries, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through the smaller space and the pressure inside the vessels grows.  The constant excess pressure on the artery walls weakens them making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. This can lead to blood clots or bits of fatty material breaking off from the lining of the blood vessel wall. 

Blood Pressure Categories

Source: American Heart Association

Risk Factors:

High blood pressure may be caused by a variety of sources, including:

  • Family history 

  • Diet, including salty foods 

  • Alcohol intake 

  • Weight 

  • Physical inactivity

  • Medications

Symptoms:
Hypertension is also known as the "Silent Killer" because there are usually no symptoms experienced. You cannot feel high blood pressure, you can have it and not know. Checking your blood pressure as often as possible is important to have an accurate measure of your blood pressure.

Effects of Hypertension:

Hypertension can lead to a variety of complications affecting a number of organs including the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.

Complications associated with hypertension include:

  • Aneurysm 

  • Heart Attack

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Enlarged left heart

  • Heart failure

  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or 'mini-stroke'

  • Stroke

  • Dementia

  • Mild cognitive impairment

  • Kidney failure

  • Kidney scarring 

  • Kidney artery aneurysm

  • Eye blood vessel damage (retinopathy)

  • Fluid buildup under the retina (choroidopathy)

  • Nerve damage (optic neuropathy)

Managing High Blood Pressure:

If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, talk to your doctor to work out a plan tailored to your individual needs. Using your medications as prescribed and making lifestyle changes can help you manage your blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing complications.

What can I do?

  • Eat a well-balanced diet and monitor salt intake.

  • Limit alcohol intake

  • Commit to physical activity

  • Manage stress

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Quit smoking

  • Take your medications as prescribed

  • Work with your doctor

Know your numbers:
You should monitor your blood pressure regularly, especially if you have high blood pressure.  Tracking your results will help you establish a pattern and will let you know if the lifestyle changes are working to help control your HBP.