What health problems are associated with high blood pressure?
Several potentially serious health conditions are linked to high blood pressure, including:
How do I know if I have high blood pressure?
High blood pressure often doesn't have any symptoms, so you usually don't feel it. For that reason, hypertension is usually diagnosed by a health care professional on a routine visit. This is especially important if you have a close relative who has hypertension or embody risk factors for it.
If your blood pressure is extremely high, you may have unusually strong headaches, chest pain, and heart failure (especially difficulty breathing and poor exercise tolerance). If you have any of these symptoms, seek treatment immediately.
Recommended blood pressure levels:
How does high blood pressure develop?
Your heart pumps blood through the body's arteries. The large arteries that leave your heart taper into smaller arteries called arterioles. The arterioles then taper into smaller vessels called capillaries, which supply oxygen and nutrients to all the organs of your body. The blood then returns to your heart through the veins.
Certain nerve impulses cause your arteries to dilate (become larger) or contract (become smaller). If these vessels are wide open, blood can flow through easily. If they're narrow, it's harder for the blood to flow through them, and the pressure inside them increases. Then high blood pressure may occur. When this happens, your heart becomes strained and blood vessels may become damaged. Changes in the vessels that supply blood to your kidneys and brain may cause these organs to be affected.
Your heart, brain and kidneys can handle increased pressure for a long time. That's why you can live for years without any symptoms or ill effects. But that doesn't mean it's not hurting you. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney failure.
What does high blood pressure do to your body?
High blood pressure adds to the workload of your heart and arteries. Your heart must pump harder, and the arteries carry blood that's moving under greater pressure. If high blood pressure continues for a long time, your heart and arteries may not work as well as they should. Other body organs may also be affected. There is increased risk of stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney failure and heart attack. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.
What about low blood pressure?
Within certain limits, the lower your blood pressure reading is, the better. In most people, blood pressure isn't too low until it produces symptoms, such as light headedness or fainting. In certain disease states, it's possible for blood pressure to be too low. Examples include:
Blood pressure less than 120/80 mmHg is generally considered ideal. Levels higher than this increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. If you have unusually low blood pressure, have it evaluated.
What can you do to reduce your risk?
There are several things that you can do to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range:
Is low blood pressure a cause for concern?
Unlike high blood pressure, low blood pressure should not immediately be a cause for concern unless and until low blood pressure symptoms begin to show up. Low blood pressure diagnosis is heavily dependent on the presentation of known low blood pressure symptoms. Until then doctors generally regard low blood pressure readings as normal. This is because different people can have low blood pressure readings some way lower than other and yet be healthy.
However if a person who normally has higher blood pressure readings and it falls suddenly and there are no symptoms accompanying it, doctors would put such a person under observation. No treatment maybe necessary at this stage. It is generally agreed that blood pressure readings of 90/60 mmHg are low blood pressure readings. However these are just numbers which do nothing to confirm hypotension unless symptoms are present. Low blood pressure is only a concern when accompanied by low blood pressure symptoms. A low blood pressure chart will show the different symptoms associated generally with falling blood pressure readings.
What generally causes low blood pressure?
Causes of low blood pressure vary. Medicines that are used in surgery such as anesthesia are known to cause low blood pressure. This also includes loss of blood during surgery or in an emergency. This can also lead to low blood pressure. Some high blood pressure treatments may also lead to low blood pressure as a side effect. Of particular note are diuretics. If these particular drugs are abused may lead to a drop in blood pressure to dangerously low levels.
Treatment of elevated systolic blood pressure has been known to cause a sharp drop in diastolic blood pressure readings especially in older people. This can be dangerously low to the loss of life in a patient. The falling in diastolic blood pressure is a direct result of an attempt to lower elevated systolic blood pressure. Other conditions and diseases that can cause a fall in blood pressure is diabetes and fainting and dehydration. Some women have low blood pressure in hot weather and when engaged in dieting.
How important is blood pressure monitoring at home? What is “white-coat”-effect?
In previous years, most people relied on doctor's office blood pressure measurements. This means people had to regularly visit the hospital, clinic or doctor to have their blood pressure taken. Today with the advancement of technology individuals can purchase own home blood pressure monitors to take measurements at home.
This new development is extremely significant in the blood pressure world. Doctor's recognize it and encourage it. Home blood pressure monitoring has been shown to help doctors manage hypertension in patients much more easily with very effective results. Home monitoring will also deal with a common problem of white coat syndrome. This involves elevated readings due to anxiety and fear of being in the doctor's office. Another advantage of home monitoring is the ability to easily detect morning hypertension which occurs too early in the morning for doctors to detect. However this will require a special monitor with the technology to do it.
Upper arm or wrist type monitor?
Both types give accurate and reliable results. Upper arm monitors are used in a more traditional way and are ideal for home use, while wrist monitors are smaller and can be more practical to carry or for travelling.