What does it mean when you have high blood pressure?

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that over 1 billion people worldwide have high blood pressure (fun fact: that’s more than the entire population of Europe!). But what does it actually mean to have high blood pressure? And how can you manage it effectively? Let’s dive in!

Understanding Blood Pressure

Before we get into what it means to have high blood pressure, let’s talk about what blood pressure actually is. Your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood around your body through a network of arteries and veins – this is known as cardiovascular circulation.

When your heart beats, it creates a surge of pressure which pushes the blood outwards against the walls of your arteries – this is called systolic (or top) blood pressure. Between each heartbeat when your heart relaxes and refills with oxygenated blood from your lungs, there is a lower level of arterial tension referred to as diastolic (bottom value).

The standard unit for measuring systolic/diastolic pressures is in mmHg (millimeters of mercury) and involves placing an inflatable cuff on the arm applying external compression pulse by pulse then slowly releasing whilst listening for Korotkoff sounds created by turbulent movement around partially open capillaries (Told ya- We’ll be using some very cool scientific language!)

So now that we know what normal healthy ranges are considered…

Systolic Diastolic
<120 <80

… anything above these values may indicate hypertension.

A Silent Killer?

One reason why having high blood pressure can be such a concern is because often times patients don’t feel any physical symptoms or discomfort at all! How crazy right? It instead gets noted as an isolated finding during routine check ups or by a doctor, this is very common.

It’s often called the “silent killer” because it can lead to serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes without any outward indications. This subtlety of the disease makes regular monitoring necessary, in fact an annual check-up with your GP (General Practitioner) is highly encouraged, even more so if multiple modifiable risk factors are present (dietary habits that high in salt content & low physical activity for example).

Risk Factors

Whilst family history/genetics play major roles in hypertension incidence rates various lifestyle choices can still increase one’s susceptibility- such as excess body fat/weight gain (did you know just 5 extra kgs may raise BP!); smoking; heavy alcohol consumption; sedentary behaviour/lack of exercise and dietary patterns associated with increased intake of sodium/potassium imbalance (we’re all guilty party to at least one on this list- don’t worry though we’ll be discussing steps towards change too 😉).

One interesting point to add here would be how social support comes into play – due to increasing impact on mental health status/demands being faced globally especially during recent times many studies have found that individuals who perceive higher levels of emotional/social support demonstrate better cardiovascular outcomes therefore relationship building/cultivation remains important.

Complications

Now that we’ve established the risks – let’s discuss how these risks translate into long-term complications.

  • Cardiovascular disease: This includes conditions such coronary artery disease, (build up within arteries supplying blood flow to heart creating blockages/choking off oxygen supply) , atrial fibrillation (irregular pulse rhythms), angina pectoris (chest pains)/heart murmurs & eventually leading to myocardial infarction when a muscle portion dies off after complete shortage/reduction in its perfusion from vessel occlusion. These all come as a consequence of prolonged hypertension.
  • Renal complications: Prolonged high blood pressure can damage small blood vessels within the kidneys, affecting its function causing kidney disease or possibly even requiring dialysis treatments.
  • Vision loss: Long-term hypertension could induce secondary conditions including blurry vision, constriction in retinal artery and sometimes leading to blindness (rare cases).
    We know this is not a light hearted subject but trust us when we say just because there are scary complications associated with hypertension it shouldn’t stop you from taking action sooner rather than later. In fact early interventions drastically improve prognosis!

Diagnosis

How can I tell if my blood pressure is too high? Fear not – determining your current values is actually very simple to do at home!

You don’t need any fancy equipment either; what many medical facilities use was initially created for home messaging.

Taking account of our point on how measurement units work that were previously mentioned it’s important to state here too we take multiple readings over time usually two weeks separated by several days minimally before reaching a diagnosis of ‘high BP’ – mostly to rule out non-specific spikes usually caused due to pain/anxiety which confuses the results.

Checking regularly manually at home with sphygmomanometer or perhaps investing into automated devices using oscillometric pressures connected through smartphone applications provide convenient means across budget ranges. Although discussed performing regular annual checkups remain an integral element when being more thorough/detailed accurately identifying relative changes over time due additional factors impacting health such as age/occupation/lifestyle habits/stress events in daily routine/hormonal status & medication consumption/additional coexisting morbidities indicating positive significant correlations alongside cardiovascular risks pushing up HBP value towards borderline levels (we told ya they get real scientific pretty quickly!)

Treatment

So, once somebody has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, what kind of treatment options are available to them? There’s no single answer here, as the course of treatment will depend on various factors ranging from etiology (cause) right up to degree/severity.

  • Lifestyle changes: These could be enough alone for mild/mid-range cases. Some lifestyle modifications include weight loss if a factor underlying or present in parallel suffers hypertension, increasing physical activity and making dietary plans are good places to start.
  • Medications: For those whose high blood pressure is more severe then medication becomes necessary such as ACE-inhibitors / Angiotensin receptor blockers during normalization medical consultation with primary care doctors or cardiologists may become routine (yep watch out for potential side effects) these medications have fantastic benefits that outweigh their limitations but — precautions should still be taken (stay safe folks!)

Conclusion

Phew – deep breaths guys, we covered everything from what hypertension actually represents how it’s measured/diagnosed/treated & complications arising due prolonged BP levels!

Although cardiovascular diseases remain leading global health threats; Hypertension emphasizing the importance of developing healthy practices that promote wellbeing across all populations whilst watching your family history/ existing conditions – and staying away from unnecessarily salty foods (pay attention!).

Most importantly listen to what your body tells you it needs (earlier don’t hesitate towards seeking consultations!) If something seems off report it immediately. Take small steps early starting preferably before reaching higher risk assessments enhancing chances against worsening outcomes they can create down the line sooner than later!

Just remember – long term prevention means consistent action in a progressive manner taking one step at a time!

Stay healthy everyone 🙂

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