What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (also referred to as HBP, or hypertension) is when your blood pressure, the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels, is consistently too high.
How Does A Blood Pressure Test Work?
- A blood pressure reading is taken with a pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer).
- During the test, the cuff is placed around the upper arm before being manually or electronically inflated.
- Once inflated, the cuff compresses the brachial artery, momentarily stopping blood flow.
- Next, air in the cuff is slowly released while the person performing the measurement listens with a stethoscope or monitors an electronic readout.
Your blood pressure reading is recorded as two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure (the top number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls during heartbeats.
- Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
If your blood pressure is normal (less than 120/80 mm Hg), your blood pressure should be screened during regular healthcare visits yearly for anyone 20 years of age or older.
What Are The Symptoms Of HBP?
Most of the time, there are no symptoms. It is a myth that people with HBP will experience nervousness, sweating or difficultly sleeping.
The best evidence indicates that high blood pressure does not cause headaches or nosebleeds, except in the case of hypertensive crisis, a medical emergency when blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or higher. If your blood pressure is unusually high AND you have headache or nosebleed and are feeling unwell, wait five minutes and retest. If your reading remains at 180/120 mm Hg or higher, call an ambulance.
A variety of symptoms may be indirectly related to, but are not always caused by, high blood pressure, such as blood spots in the eyes, facial flushing or dizziness.
What Are Risk Factors Associated With HBP?
Common hereditary and physical risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- Family history If your parents or other close blood relatives have high blood pressure, there’s an increased chance that you’ll get it, too.
- Age The older you are, the more likely you are to get high blood pressure. As we age, our blood vessels gradually lose some of their elastic quality, which can contribute to increased blood pressure. However, children can also develop high blood pressure.
- Gender Until age 64, men are more likely to get high blood pressure than women are. At 65 and older, women are more likely to get high blood pressure.
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD) HBP may occur as a result of kidney disease. And, having HBP may also may also cause further kidney damage.
Modifiable risk factors include:
- Lack of physical activity: Not getting enough physical activity as part of your lifestyle increases your risk of getting high blood pressure. Physical activity is great for your heart and circulatory system in general, and blood pressure is no exception.
- An unhealthy diet, especially one high in sodium: Good nutrition from a variety of sources is critical for your health. A diet that is too high in salt consumption, as well as calories, saturated and trans fat and sugar, carries an additional risk of high blood pressure.
- Being overweight or obese: Carrying too much weight puts an extra strain on your heart and circulatory system that can cause serious health problems. Drinking too much alcohol: Regular, heavy use of alcohol can cause your blood pressure to increase dramatically.
- Sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea may increase risk of developing HBP and is common in people with resistant hypertension.
- High cholesterol: More than half of people with HBP also have high cholesterol.
- Diabetes: Most people with diabetes could also develop HBP.
- Smoking and tobacco use: Using tobacco can cause your blood pressure to temporarily increase and can contribute to damaged arteries.
- Stress: Too much stress may contribute to increased blood pressure, and also encourage behaviors that increase blood pressure, such as poor diet, physical inactivity, and using tobacco or drinking alcohol more than usual.
What Changes Can I Make To Manage HBP?
- Eat a well-balanced diet that’s low in salt
- Limit alcohol
- Enjoy regular physical activity
- Manage stress
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Take your medications properly
- Work together with your doctor
How Much Sodium Is Allowed While Managing HBP?
No more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) a day of sodium is allowed, with an ideal recommended limit of 1,500 mg per day for most adults, especially for those with high blood pressure. Even cutting back by 1,000 mg a day can improve blood pressure and heart health.
Sodium chloride or table salt is approximately 40 percent sodium. It’s important to understand just how much sodium is in salt so you can take measures to control your intake. These amounts are approximate.
- 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
- 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
- 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
- 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
So one way to cut back is to skip the table salt. However, most of the sodium in our diets comes from packaged, processed foods. Eating these foods less often can help reduce your sodium intake, and lower your blood pressure as well as prevent HBP or hypertension from developing. Taking control of your sodium means checking labels, and reducing preservatives. Watch out for natural foods with a higher-than-average sodium content, including cheese, seafood, olives and some legumes. Some over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications contain sodium too.
Eat more fruits and raw vegetables, using them as snacks. Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils. Learn to use spices and herbs to enhance the natural flavor of food. Ditch salt for healthier, delicious salt-free seasoning alternatives.
Follow the DASH diet for better results!
Content source: Heart.org