In this article, second in a series (Part 1), I am going to talk about:
. How high blood pressure is diagnosed
. What to do if you notice a sudden rise in blood pressure
. How hypertension threatens our health and quality of life
How is high blood pressure diagnosed (1)?
When we measure our blood pressure, we receive values that immediately show us whether our blood pressure is high or not.
For example, 120 x 80 mmHg or 12 by 8, are the numbers that represent ideal blood pressure. And the result is given in two values (systolic and diastolic pressure) which means that blood pressure is a combination of two forces.
- Systolic blood pressure - happens as our blood pumps out of our heart and into the arteries.
- Diastolic blood pressure - created as the heart rests between heartbeats.
*Systolic is the top number and diastolic is the bottom number of a blood pressure reading.
According to the American Heart Association, the blood pressure ranges include (2):
• Normal: systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80
• Pre-hypertension: systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80
• Stage 1 high blood pressure: systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89
• Stage 2 high blood pressure: systolic is 140 or higher and diastolic is 90 or higher
• Hypertensive crisis: systolic higher than 180 and/or diastolic higher than 120
What to do if you notice a sudden rise in your blood pressure (3)?
Use the numbers above as a reference, and if you notice even a slight variation above the considered normal range for blood pressure you should immediately look for medical guidance.
Keep in mind that hypertension is a dangerous condition known as "silent killer" since nearly one-third of individuals who have high blood pressure don’t know it. As in most of the cases, people don’t have any symptom warning about the disease, which can lead to a fatal problem if not receive adequate treatment.
How hypertension threatens our health and quality of life (4)?
Healthy arteries are flexible, strong and elastic. Their inner lining is smooth so that blood flows freely. However, over time, high blood pressure may cause our artery walls to become less elastic, limiting blood flow throughout our body.
In fact, if excessive pressure on our artery walls is left undetected and untreated may silently damage our body and organs for years before symptoms develop.
Consequently, the higher our blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage it causes, and untreated hypertension is a major risk factor for the development of life-threatening conditions such as:
- Coronary artery disease (5) - damaged and narrowed arteries – high blood pressure can damage the cells of our arteries’ inner lining. As a result, arteries become less elastic, limiting blood flow throughout our body.
- Aneurysm (6) – over time, the constant pressure of blood moving through a weakened artery can cause swelling of a blood vessel. It can potentially rupture and cause bleeding.
- Enlarged left heart (7) – the high blood pressure forces our heart to work harder than necessary in order to pump blood to the rest of our body. This causes the left ventricle to thicken or stiffen, limiting the ability to pump blood to our body.
- Heart failure (8) – over time, the stress on our heart caused by high blood pressure can cause our heart muscle to weaken and work less efficiently.
- Heart attack (9) – consistently high blood pressure may damage arteries that can become blocked and prevent blood flow to our heart muscle.
- Transient ischemic attack (10) – also called a mini-stroke – a brief or temporary disruption of blood supply to our brain.
- Stroke (11) – occurs when part of our brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to die. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke by damaging and weakening our brain blood vessels, causing them to narrow, clog or leak more easily or even burst.
- Dementia (12) – there are a number of causes of dementia. One cause or vascular dementia can result from narrowing and blockage of arteries that supply blood to our brain.
- Mild cognitive decline (13) – like dementia, it can result from blocked blood flow to the brain when high blood pressure damages arteries.
- Kidney disease and failure (14) – high blood pressure can damage both the arteries leading to our kidneys and the tiny blood vessels within the kidneys interfering with their ability to effectively filter and remove waste and extra fluid from our blood. As a result, dangerous levels of fluid and waste accumulate in blood vessels, and may raise blood pressure even more, creating a dangerous cycle.
- Visual dysfunction or vision loss (15) – high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the retina and several retinal diseases are related to untreated hypertension. Problems such as retinal vascular occlusion, retinal arteriolar emboli, micro and macroaneurysm, ischemic optic neuropathy and age-related macular degeneration, as there is a relationship between blood pressure and our eyes.
- Sexual dysfunction (16) – decreased blood flow can lead to erectile dysfunction in men and decrease libido in women.
- Bone loss (17) – high blood pressure can increase the amount of calcium that is in our urine, and this excessive elimination of calcium may lead to loss of bone density (osteoporosis), which in turn can lead to broken bones.
- Trouble sleeping (18) – obstructive sleep apnea – a condition in which our throat muscles relax causing us to snore loudly. It happens in more than half of those with high blood pressure. Also, sleep deprivation can raise our blood pressure.
And the list goes on and on.
In fact, these health conditions above are just an illustration of the harm that hypertension can cause us. Health complications with serious consequences as pain, decreased quality of life, disability, suffering and losses in famillies.
Problems that can be preventabe in the vast majority of the cases of high blood pressure by changes in diet and lifestyle.
In Part 3 of this series, I will talk about the most common high blood pressure symptoms and what are the risks factors that cause blood pressure to rise.
See you soon and please, leave your comment below.