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High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition where the force of blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high.

A measurement of 130/80 mm Hg or higher is considered high blood pressure according to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. Blood pressure can be divided into four main categories:

  • Typical: mm Hg of less than 120/80
  • Elevated: less than 80 diastolic and 120-129 systolic
  • Hypertension in stage one: 85–89 diastolic or 130–139 systolic is considered
  • Hypertension in stage two: 140/90 mm Hg or greater

High blood pressure is often called a “Silent Killer” because it usually has no symptoms, even at dangerously high levels.  Untreated, it can lead to serious health problems like heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.

Typical high blood pressure risk factors include

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol or caffeine intake

In some cases, it can also be caused by underlying medical conditions like kidney disease or sleep apnea.

Lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and stress management can help prevent and manage high blood pressure. Many people also require medication to control their blood pressure. Regular checkups are crucial to monitor and treat high blood pressure before it causes damage.

What is considered High Blood Pressure?

In the U.S., high blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as

“A systolic blood pressure (top number) of 130 mmHg or higher and/or a diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 80 mmHg or higher”

  • For people over age 80, high blood pressure is considered 150/90 mmHg or higher if measured at a clinic, or 145/85 mmHg or higher if measured at home.
  • Blood pressure readings between 121/81 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg are considered “elevated” and indicate a risk of developing high blood pressure if steps are not taken to control it.
  • A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered Stage 2 hypertension, and anything higher than 180/120 mmHg is a hypertensive crisis requiring immediate medical attention.

High blood pressure is a “Silent Killer” because it often has no symptoms, so regular checkups and monitoring are crucial to detect and manage it. Lifestyle changes and medications can help control high blood pressure and reduce the risk of serious health complications like heart attack and stroke.

What are the causes of High Blood Pressure?

The main causes of high blood pressure (hypertension) include:

  • Age – As people age, their risk of high blood pressure rises. Until about age 64, high blood pressure is more common in men, while women are more likely to develop it after age 65.
  • Race – High blood pressure is particularly common among Black people and tends to develop at an earlier age in this population.
  • Family history – If you have a parent or sibling who has high blood pressure, your chances of developing high blood pressure are increased.
  • Obesity or being overweight – Excess weight causes changes in the blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of the body that can increase blood pressure.
  • Lack of exercise – Physical inactivity can lead to weight gain and higher blood pressure.
  • Tobacco use – Smoking, chewing tobacco, or vaping can immediately raise blood pressure and injure blood vessel walls over time.
  • High salt intake – Too much sodium in the diet can cause the body to retain fluid, increasing blood pressure.
  • Low potassium levels – Potassium helps balance sodium levels, and low potassium can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption – Alcohol use, particularly in men, has been linked to increased blood pressure.
  • Stress – High levels of stress can lead to temporary spikes in blood pressure and unhealthy stress-related habits that further raise it.
  • Certain medical conditions – Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can all cause or worsen high blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy – High blood pressure can develop or worsen during pregnancy, leading to complications like preeclampsia.

The most common type is primary (or essential) hypertension, which has no single clear cause but is influenced by a combination of these risk factors.

How to lower Blood Pressure?

Here are some effective ways to lower blood pressure naturally:

  • Exercise regularly – On most days of the week, try to engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes. Activities like walking, dancing, jogging, and swimming are particularly good for your heart. Regular exercise may lower your blood pressure by 6-12 systolic points and 3-7 diastolic points.
  • Lose extra weight – If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can help lower blood pressure. Losing 1-2 pounds per week with a mix of healthy eating and exercise is more likely to lead to long-term success.
  • Eat a healthy diet – Follow a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Limit sodium, saturated fat, sugar and processed foods. The DASH diet has been shown to be effective for lowering blood pressure.
  • Limit alcohol – Drinking too much alcohol regularly can increase blood pressure. No more than two drinks should be consumed daily by men and one drink by women.
  • Quit smoking – Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and blood pressure. Quitting can help lower your blood pressure.
  • Manage stress – Try relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, deep breathing or listening to calming music. Spending time with friends and family can also help reduce stress.
  • Monitor your blood pressure at home – Use a home blood pressure monitor to track your numbers. This can help you see if lifestyle changes are working and alert you to any concerning changes.

Making these lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure in a matter of weeks to months. If your blood pressure remains high, your doctor may also prescribe medication to help control it.

Dietary Tips to lower Blood Pressure

The following food recommendations can help elevate low blood pressure:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Dehydration can lower blood volume and blood pressure. Aim for at least 2 liters (8 glasses) per day, more in hot weather or when exercising.
  • Eat salty foods like canned soup, smoked fish, cottage cheese, pickled items, and olives. Salt helps regulate fluid balance and can increase blood pressure.
  • Consume caffeine from coffee or tea. Caffeine provides a temporary boost to heart rate and blood pressure, though the effects vary.
  • Get enough vitamin B12 from eggs, fortified cereals, meat, fish, and nutritional yeast. B12 deficiency can lead to anemia which lowers blood pressure.
  • Eat folate-rich foods like asparagus, beans, lentils, citrus fruits, leafy greens, eggs, and liver. Folate also helps prevent anemia.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently. Large meals require more energy to digest which can cause blood pressure drops.
  • Limit alcohol intake, which can dehydrate you and lower blood pressure.

The most effective dietary changes depend on the underlying cause of your low blood pressure. Consult your doctor to determine the best diet plan for your individual needs. Combining dietary changes with proper hydration and exercise can help manage hypotension.

FAQ’s

1: Can high bp make you dizzy? 

Yes, high blood pressure can cause dizziness in some cases, but it is not a common symptom. Dizziness is more often associated with sudden drops in blood pressure, such as when standing up quickly.

Dizziness can be a sign of a hypertensive crisis, which is a severe spike in blood pressure that requires immediate medical attention. However, most of the time high blood pressure develops gradually with no symptoms at all, earning it the nickname “The Silent Killer”.

If you experience sudden, severe dizziness along with other symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath, seek emergency medical care as it could indicate a serious complication like a heart attack or stroke. Otherwise, regular monitoring and treatment of high blood pressure is important to prevent complications, even if you don’t feel any symptoms.

2: Why is my bp high in morning?

There are several reasons why your blood pressure may be high in the morning:

  • Natural circadian rhythm: Your body’s 24-hour cycle causes blood pressure to rise naturally in the morning as you wake up. Hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline are released, which can increase blood pressure between 6 AM and noon.
  • Medications: If you take blood pressure medications, they may wear off overnight, leading to a spike in the morning. Using short-acting medications or not taking enough medication can contribute to morning hypertension.
  • Medical conditions: Certain health issues like untreated hypertension, sleep apnea, kidney disease, and thyroid disorders can cause morning blood pressure surges.
  • Lifestyle factors: Smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, a high-salt diet, lack of exercise, and high stress levels are linked to morning hypertension.
  • Age and genetics: Morning hypertension becomes more common with age. People of African, Caribbean, or European descent are at higher risk.

To manage morning hypertension, your doctor may adjust your medications, recommend lifestyle changes, or treat any underlying conditions. Monitoring your blood pressure at home, especially in the morning and evening, can help identify the issue. Consistently high morning readings should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

3: Can high bp cause flashing lights in eyes?  

Yes, high blood pressure can cause flashing lights in the eyes. This is a symptom of hypertensive retinopathy, a condition where high blood pressure damages the blood vessels in the retina.

When blood pressure is significantly elevated over an extended period, it can cause the retina’s blood vessels to thicken, narrow, and leak fluid. This damage to the retinal blood vessels is what leads to the appearance of flashing lights or “floaters” in the vision.

Other symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Vision loss
  • Eye pain
  • Headaches

Extremely elevated blood pressure and sudden changes in vision are medical emergencies that need to be treated right away.

The best way to prevent vision problems from high blood pressure is to keep your blood pressure under control through lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and limiting salt intake. Regular eye exams are also important to detect any eye damage from hypertension early before vision loss occurs.

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