WHAT IS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
High blood pressure or hypertension, is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways.
OVERVIEW OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
About 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure (HBP). HBP itself usually has no symptoms. You can have it for years without knowing it. During this time, though, it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.
BLOOD PRESSURE NUMBERS
Blood pressure numbers include systolic and diastolic pressures. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.
All levels above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk, and the risk grows as blood pressure levels rise.
BLOOD PRESSURE OUTLOOK
Blood pressure tends to rise with age. Following a healthy lifestyle helps some people delay or prevent this rise in blood pressure.
People who have HBP can take steps to control it and reduce their risks for related health problems. Key steps include following a healthy lifestyle, having ongoing medical care, and following the treatment plan that your doctor prescribes.
WHAT CAUSES HBP?
Certain medical problems, such as chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea, may cause blood pressure to rise. Certain medicines, such as asthma medicines (example: corticosteroids) and cold-relief products also may raise blood pressure.
In some women, blood pressure can go up if they use birth control pills, become pregnant, or take hormone therapy.
Children younger than 10 years who have HBP often have another condition that's causing it (such as kidney disease).
WHO IS AT RISK FOR HBP?
- older age - male (older than 45); female - (older than 55).
- race or ethnicity - occurs more often in African-American than in any other ethnic group
- overweight or obesity
- adult men has greater risk than adult women
- family history of HBP
A number of unhealthy lifestyle habits can raise your risk for HBP, including the following:
- eating too much sodium (salt)
- drinking too much alcohol
- not getting enough potassium in your diet
- not doing enough physical activity
HBP itself usually has no symptoms. Rarely, headaches may occur.
COMPLICATIONS OF HBP
When blood pressure stays high over time, it can damage the body. HBP can cause:
- the heart to get larger or weaker, which may lead to heart failure.
- aneurysms (abnormal bulge in the wall of an artery) to form in blood vessels.
- blood vessels in the kidney to narrow (this may cause kidney failure)
- arteries throughout the body to narrow in some places, which limits blood flow (especially to the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs). This can cause a heart attack, stroke kidney failure, or amputation of part of the leg.
- blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed (this may lead to vision changes or blindness).
Your doctor will diagnose high blood pressure using the results of blood pressure tests. These tests will be done several times to make sure the results are correct.
HOW IS BLOOD PRESSURE TESTED?
To measure your blood pressure, your doctor or nurse will use some type of a gauge, a stethoscope, and a blood pressure cuff. Most often you will sit or lie down with the cuff around your arm as your doctor or nurse checks your blood pressure.
HOW IS HBP TREATED?
HBP is treated with lifestyle changes and medicines. Most people who have HBP will neeed lifelong treatment. Sticking to your treatment plan is important. It can prevent or delay the problems linked to HBP and help you live and stay active longer.
GOALS OF TREATMENT
The treatment goal for most adults is to get and keep blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg. For adults who have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, the goal is to get and keep blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg.
Today's blood pressure medicines can safely help most people control their blood pressures. Some of the types of medicines used for HBP are:
- Beta blockers
- Ace inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Alpha blockers
- Alpha-beta blockers
- Nervous system inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
Doctors measure blood pressure in children and teens the same way they do in adults. Your child should have rotine blood pressure checks starting at 3 years of age. Newborn babies often have very low blood pressure numbers, while older teens have numbers similar to adults.
The ranges for normal blood pressure and HBP are generally lower for youth than adults. These ranges are based on the average blood pressure numbers for age, gender, and height.
To find out whether a young child or a teen has HBP, a doctor will compare the child or teen's blood pressure numbers to average numbers for his or her age, height, and gender.
HOW IS HBP TREATED IN CHILDREN AND TEENS
HBP in children and teens, just like adults, is treated with lifestyle changes and medicines. Key steps include having a child or a teen:
- Follow a healthy eating plan that focuses on plenty of fruits and vegetables. The diet must be low in salt, saturated and trans fats.
- Be active for at least 1 to 2 hours per day.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage stress.
- Cope with problems.
- Quit smoking (for teens who smoke).
- Follow the doctor's treatment plan for HBP.
- Take the medicines as prescribed by the doctor.