Hypertension, also known, as high blood pressure, is a condition that is more common than many realize, often developing over the course of several years. Many are unaware that they even have this condition at first.
When you have high blood pressure, the force of blood flowing through your artery walls is high enough to cause them to narrow. The amount of blood your heart is pumping, along with the resistance from your arteries, is what causes high blood pressure.
People living with high blood pressure are vulnerable to serious health issues that might include heart disease, like congestive heart failure. High blood pressure also increases your heart attack and stroke risk.
One thing that is good to know is that doctors can detect high blood pressure easily. Working with your doctor or health care provider can help you manage your symptoms more effectively and help prevent further problems.
There are two main types of hypertension, both with different causes:
The primary, or essential type, is often without an identifiable cause. Most patients have the condition developed over several years, at a gradual pace.
The secondary type has an underlying health condition as its cause. In these cases, the onset of symptoms is usually sudden and results in more severe hypertension symptoms. Some of the causes include congenital blood vessel defects, thyroid issues, and tumors in the adrenal glands.
Causes of high blood pressure related to specific conditions include kidney disease, as well as obstructive sleep apnea. Being overweight, eating too much salt, not exercising, and drinking too much caffeine have been shown to be factored into hypertension. Smoking not getting enough sleep or having disturbed sleep contribute to this condition as well. Medications, like pain relievers, decongestants, cold pills, and oral contraceptives can have an effect on your blood pressure. Another possible contributing factor is the use of illicit or illegal drugs, like amphetamines and cocaine.
There are risk factors contributing to hypertension, which include both circumstances beyond most peoples' control and situations that are within your ability to control. Some of the factors that you can't control include your family history because high blood pressure tends to run in families.
Race may play a factor, with African Americans being more susceptible. Age, too, plays a role, with men being more likely to develop high blood pressure before 65 and women developing it after 65.
There are also situations that are somewhat within your ability to control. A lack of physical activity and being overweight or obese can play a role in developing high blood pressure. Regular physical activity and keeping a healthy weight can make a difference.
Tobacco and excessive alcohol use can also cause heart damage and put pressure on your blood vessel walls. Stopping tobacco product usage and having no more than two drinks a day if you are a man and one if you are a woman make a difference in preventing hypertension.
Too much salt and too little potassium in your diet can also contribute to hypertension. Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet and making sure you are receiving enough potassium may help.
Keeping your stress levels properly managed is one way to help prevent high blood pressure issues. Pregnant women also need to monitor their blood pressure levels as well.
Even though many people have no symptoms of high blood pressure, there are some symptoms you might experience. Headaches are a symptom that can grab attention. Shortness of breath and nosebleeds may also be symptoms, however, they are rare.
There are some complications that can come from untreated hypertension. Two of the most dangerous are a stroke and heart attack. Other cardiac complications include congestive heart failure or an aneurysm.
High blood pressure can also cause damage by narrowing the arteries. Narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys can make it harder for them to function right. When the blood vessels in the eyes get narrowed, they can cause vision loss.
Hypertension can also lead to memory problems, as well as difficulty concentrating due to reduced brain blood flow. If the reduced blood flow is bad enough from hypertension, dementia may develop.
Hypertension is easiest for doctors to detect with routine care. At the very least, all healthy adults should have a blood pressure reading every other year. High-risk patients or patients over 40 should have at least a yearly reading.
Depending on the cause of your high blood pressure, you might take medication or make lifestyle changes, or do both. Your doctor will be able to make the right choice.
If you have or think you might have hypertension, our medical team at Amarillo STAT Care in Amarillo, TX will be glad to help.