High blood pressure (hypertension) is a health condition in which the pressure of blood against the artery is quite high, which results in several health problems, heart disease being one of them.
Blood pressure is determined in two ways – the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. One must understand that the more blood the heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher the blood pressure.
A blood pressure reading has two numbers:
Top number (systolic pressure) is the first upper number that measures the pressure in your arteries while your heart beats.
Bottom number (diastolic pressure) is the second or lower number that measures the pressure in your arteries in between beats.
Let's have a look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, risk factors, and treatment of hypertension.
Hypertension: Types and Causes
According to the doctors of Cleveland Clinic, there are two types of high blood pressure:
Primary hypertension has no underlying cause and tends to develop gradually over the years.
Secondary hypertension is the type of high blood pressure caused due to underlying health conditions and it tends to appear suddenly. It causes higher blood pressure than primary hypertension. Various factors responsible for secondary hypertension are:
Obstructive sleep apnea
Adrenal gland tumors
Defects from birth in the blood vessels
Certain medications like birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, etc
Illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines
Hypertension: Signs and Symptoms
According to the US NIH, here are a few common signs and symptoms of high blood pressure:
Difficulty in breathing
Blood in the urine
Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears
According to the doctors of Mayo Clinic, there are several options to diagnose high blood pressure. High blood pressure doesn't have any symptoms; therefore, the healthcare professional may check your blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff. The other options are:
Ambulatory monitoring is a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring test that confirms if you have high blood pressure or not. The device measures your blood pressure at regular intervals over a 24-hour period and gives an accurate picture of your blood pressure.
Lab tests like a urine test (urinalysis), blood test, or cholesterol test also help determine blood pressure.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a quick and painless test that helps measure the heart's electrical activity.
Echocardiogram checks for more signs of heart disease and uses sound waves to produce images of the heart.
Hypertension: Treatment and Management
According to PubMed Central, a combination of lifestyle changes and few medications will help manage high blood pressure:
A healthy diet with less salt
Regular physical activity
Maintaining healthy weight
Several types of medicines that can help control high blood pressure include:
People under the age of 55 are recommended ACE inhibitors or angiotensin-2 receptor blockers (ARB).
People aged 55 or more are recommended a calcium channel blocker.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help reduce blood pressure and relax your blood vessels.
ARBs are similar to ACE inhibitors and are recommended if ACE inhibitors cause side effects.
Calcium channel blockers reduce blood pressure by widening your blood vessels.
Beta-blockers also help reduce blood pressure by making your heart beat more slowly and with less force.