In order to understand the warning signs of hypertension, which is also referred to as high blood pressure, it is important to know what hypertension is. The following information will answer that question and describe symptoms associated with hypertension.
What is hypertension?
Briefly, hypertension is a condition in which your blood exerts more force against your artery walls than normal.
What causes hypertension?
Typical causes include, but are not limited to, stress, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, certain medications, dietary supplements and underlying health issues that may or may not be hereditary.
What is “normal” blood pressure?
Associates of the American Heart Association suggest the normal range for blood pressure is around 120/80. Anything above that is classified as mild to severe, based on the numbers, which we will cover next.
The numbers 120/80 represent the rate at which your heart pumps blood through your arteries and veins and the amount of resistance to the flow of blood that your arteries creates.
If you have ever had your blood pressure checked and heard health care providers use the terms systolic and diastolic, 120/80, for example, would be the numeric representation of those terms, respectively.
Systolic stems from the Greek word systole, which means contraction in English. In a blood pressure reading, it would be the 120, indicating the amount of force your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats or constricts and pumps blood throughout your body.
Diastolic stems from the Greek word diastole, which means dilate in English. As the 80 of 120/80 of a blood pressure reading, it would represent how much force your blood exerts on your arterial walls when your heart relaxes or dilates before the next beat or constriction.
If for some reason your heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood, your arteries will typically respond by becoming narrower, which causes hypertension.
Now that you are more familiar with what hypertension is, let’s look at symptoms and preventative measures.
What are the warning signs of high blood pressure?
Unfortunately, hypertension can be sneaky because some people don’t experience any symptoms even when their blood pressure exceeds the normal range by an alarming degree. However, your body may drop a few hints, so to speak.
For example, if you notice that you tend to get headaches or experience shortness of breath or chest pain after engaging in emotionally or physically stressful situations, you may have hypertension.
Additionally, if you experience nosebleeds outside of receiving a direct blow to your nose or some other form of trauma that would cause your nose to bleed, you may have high blood pressure.
If any of these situations seem familiar to you, do not brush them off as temporary issues. Err on the side of caution and contact your primary care provider immediately.
American Heart Association representatives echo these sentiments via the following statement: “If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision or difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own.
Left untreated, hypertension can cause a number of adverse health conditions and aggravate pre-existing ones. This is why high blood pressure has such an ominous nickname: the silent killer.
How do you know if you have hypertension?
The only way to know for certain if you have hypertension is to have regular blood pressure checks.
How often should you check your blood pressure?
Representatives of the Mayo Clinic suggest individuals 18 and older have their blood pressure checked at least every two years. Older adults (40+), especially those living with hypertension, are encouraged to have their blood pressure checked at least once a year.
Is hypertension curable?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to that question. It depends on the individual. For instance, some pregnant women develop a form of hypertension referred to as preeclampsia during their third trimester. While elevated blood pressure can be dangerous for both the mother and her unborn child, there is some good news: This particular form of hypertension usually goes away shortly after the child is born.
For other individuals, hypertension may be a chronic condition. In these instances, medication and lifestyle modifications may be necessary in order to normalize their blood pressure and help them improve their overall quality of life.
Additionally, smokers and overweight individuals may find that giving up smoking and making changes to their diet may be all that is needed to normalize their blood pressure.
What should you do if you do have hypertension?
Always check with your health care provider before you take matters into your own hands and make lifestyle changes, especially if you are using prescription drugs or supplements.
Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings
Preventing High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Other Medical Conditions | cdc.gov. (2018, October 2). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/medical_conditions.htm
High blood pressure (hypertension) – Symptoms and causes. (2018, May 12). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410
systole | Origin and meaning of systole by Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.etymonline.com/word/systole?ref=etymonline_crossreference
diastole | Origin and meaning of diastole by Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.etymonline.com/word/diastole#etymonline_v_37319
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