Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that nearly one third of the American population (about 75 million people) are suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure (HBP). As the name suggests, this condition is characterized by an abnormally high blood pressure reading. If left untreated, HBP can damage blood vessels and cause other serious health complications kidney disease, stroke, heart disease and visual impairment, among others. With that in mind, here is some more information about hypertension.
An Overview of Blood Pressure Reading
Expressed in millimeters of mercury, a high blood pressure is generally any blood pressure reading above 120/80 mm Hg, the upper figure represents the systolic pressure reading while the lower figure represents the diastolic pressure reading. It is worth noting that normal blood pressure is any reading between 90/60 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg. It is worth noting that, if your blood pressure reading is higher than normal but lower than high blood pressure, then you are suffering from prehypertension, meaning you could develop hypertension if you fail to lower your blood pressure readings.
Some of the risk factors associated with hypertension include:
Pre-existing health conditions — Health conditions such as prehypertension and diabetes mellitus can increase your risk of developing hypertension, says the CDC.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits — Hypertension is largely a lifestyle disease. This means that people with unhealthy lifestyle habits are at a greater risk of hypertension. Examples of such habits include physical inactivity, excessive consumption of alcohol, tobacco use and poor dietary habits such as consuming too much sodium and processed foods.
Hereditary factors — People with a family history of hypertension are more likely to develop hypertension compared to people without a family history of the condition.
Other factors — Other risk factors include age, sex and race.
Hypertension is a symptomless condition. In other words, a patient may fail to experience any warning or symptoms. Because many patients do not know they suffer from HBP, the condition is widely referred to as a “silent killer.” In some rare cases, patients experience symptoms such as vomiting and headaches. Only a blood pressure test would be able to determine whether your blood pressure numbers are elevated or not.
Blood Pressure Test
A blood pressure test is a relatively simple and painless procedure. You can take this test virtually anywhere including a pharmacy, health facility or even at home. The procedure involves the use of a medical instrument known as a sphygmomanometer, which consists of an inflatable cuff and a display (manual or electronic). To measure your blood pressure, your physician will wrap the inflatable cuff around your upper arm and inflate it accordingly in order to compress your brachial artery and stop blood flow briefly. Then, your physician will release the air from the cuff slowly and note the reading on the display. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), your doctor would need to measure your blood pressure several times to establish whether you have HBP or not. Moreover, if you are aged 20 and above and your blood pressure is above 120/80 mm Hg, you should have it checked often, says the AHA.
As mentioned earlier, hypertension is largely a lifestyle disease. This means that you can manage the condition simply by adopting healthy lifestyle choices. Some of the measures you can take to prevent/manage HBP include eating healthy, shunning or taking alcohol in moderation, exercising regularly, shunning tobacco, and maintaining a healthy weight. In addition to healthy lifestyle choices, you can use certain medications to manage hypertension. These medications include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, thiazide diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and renin inhibitors.
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