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High Blood Pressure

An Overview of Hypertension

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. Hypertension is another term used to describe high blood pressure. Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure. For example, 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg). One or both of these numbers can be too high.

  1. Normal blood pressure is when the blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mmHg most of the time.
  2. High blood pressure (hypertension) is when the blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above most of the time.
  3. If the blood pressure numbers are 120/80 or higher, but below 140/90, it is called pre-hypertension.

One of the most dangerous aspects of hypertension is that you may not know that you have it. In fact, nearly one-third of people who have high blood pressure don’t know it. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is through regular checkups. This is especially important if you have a close relative who has high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, including:

  • Severe headache
  • Fatigue or confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears

There are several risk factors for high blood pressure.

Risk factors you can’t control:

Age. The risk rises as you age. Through early middle age, it is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop it after menopause.
Race. Some ethnic groups are at higher risk for hypertension than others.
Family history.

Risk factors you can control:

  • Being overweight or obese. The more you weigh, the more blood you need to bring nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood goes up, so does the pressure against artery walls.
  • Not being physically active. Inactive people tend to have faster heart rates. That makes the force of blood against your arteries harder.
  • Smoking or using tobacco. Tobacco use immediately raises your blood pressure on a temporary basis.
  • Diet.
  • Too much salt in your diet.
  • Too little potassium in your diet.
  • Too little vitamin D.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.

Risk factors you can somewhat control:

  • Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary, but dramatic, rise in blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease
  • Sleep Apnea.
  • Pregnancy

Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. It can severely impact quality of life and it increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death.