High blood pressure (AKA Hypertension) is a common disease that occurs when blood flows through your arteries at a higher than normal pressure. Your blood pressure is composed of two numbers, systolic and diastolic. Systolic pressure is the pressure when your heart ventricles pump blood out of your heart. Diastolic pressure is the pressure between heartbeats when the heart is filling with blood. Healthy blood pressure for typical adults should be less than 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). The top number is your systolic pressure and the bottom number is your diastolic pressure.
There are many factors that may raise the risk of high blood pressure. Some of these risk factors can be changed, like unhealthy lifestyle habits. Other risk factors are out of your control and can not be changed like age, family history, genetics, race and ethnicity, and gender.
As we age our blood pressure tends to increase naturally, our blood vessels tend to thicken and stiffen over time. These changes increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Family History and Genetics
High blood pressure has the tendency to run in the family. There has been numerous genetic studies that have helped to increase our understanding of the body systems involved in high blood pressure. There are many specific genes that are linked to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.
There are many lifestyle habits that can increase your risk of high blood pressure and these include:
Some prescribed medications and over-the-counter medications can affect your bodies ability to control your blood pressure. Medications that could cause high blood pressure are antidepressants, decongestants, hormonal birth control pills, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen.
There are certain medical conditions that change the way your body controls fluids, sodium, and hormones in your blood, causing high blood pressure, these include:
Race or ethnicity
African-Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more often the people of other racial backgrounds in the U.S. High blood pressure tends to also be more severe in African-Americans and some medications are less effective in treating high blood pressure in African-Americans.
Until the age of 64 men are more likely than women to develop high blood pressure. At age 65 and older, women are more likely to get high blood pressure.
It is critical to have your blood pressure checked regularly and to know your numbers because high blood pressure does not tend to cause symptoms until it has caused serious problems. Because blood pressure is largely symptomless it is often referred to as the “silent killer”. Undiagnosed and uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to serious health issues such as:
Everyone 3 years of age and older should have their blood pressure checked regularly by a healthcare provider, at least once a year. A blood pressure test is quick and painless and is usually performed in a doctor's office or clinic but can also be done at some pharmacies or with a home blood pressure cuff. To prepare for your blood pressure test follow these simple steps:
Leading a heart-healthy lifestyle can help to prevent high blood pressure, here are some ways to start living a healthy lifestyle:
A doctor is able to diagnose you with high blood pressure based on your medical history and if you regularly get your blood pressure checked and your blood pressure readings become consistently higher. For most healthy adults your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mm Hg. You may be diagnosed with high blood pressure if your systolic reading is consistently 140 mm Hg or higher or your diastolic reading is consistently 90 mm Hg or higher. If you have other risk factors for heart disease your doctor may determine you have high blood pressure if your systolic readings are between 130-139 or diastolic readings are between 80-89 consistently.
Typically, once diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will customize a treatment plan for you that may include heart-healthy lifestyle changes alone or with medication. Your doctor may utilize a risk calculator to help estimate your risk of complications to determine the right treatment for you.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Changing old habits can be difficult. To help make this change a little easier, try making one change at a time and then add another as you feel more comfortable.
If healthy lifestyle changes alone are not helping to control your blood pressure your doctor may prescribe a blood pressure medication. It is important to keep up your healthy lifestyle changes while taking the medication as it could help control and lower your blood pressure. Potential high blood pressure medications include:
Where can I find treatment for high blood pressure online?
Maintaining healthy blood pressure is critical to living a healthy happy life. Thankfully high blood pressure is an extremely preventable disease, by making healthy choices and managing your other health conditions you will significantly reduce your risk of high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also very treatable with lifestyle changes or medication. With the ever-growing industry of telemedicine you are even able to receive treatment for your high blood pressure without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home. Check out our list of the top online doctors that can help to diagnose and treat your high blood pressure.