Blood pressure is literally the amount of pressure that blood puts on artery walls during circulation throughout the body. When blood leaves the heart through the aorta it has the most pressure against the artery walls and the amount of pressure decreases as it travels through the smaller blood vessels in the body such as other arteries, capillaries and arterioles. (1) When the amount of pressure is too high this is called hypertension, or high blood pressure.
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Signs of high blood pressure
There are often times no signs of high blood pressure. High blood pressure often doesn’t start to show itself until a person is experiencing much more serious and life threatening conditions such as a heart attack. That’s why it is so important to get your blood pressure checked by the doctor regularly.
However, when symptoms present themselves, a person may experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and chest pains with shortness of breath. (1) Besides high blood pressure contributing to heart attacks, it can also lead to heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, eye damage and vision loss and aneurysms.
Factors that can lead to high blood pressure
There are various causes for high blood pressure. Many of the causes aren’t actually known yet because many people who don’t exhibit the risk factors can still experience high blood pressure. There are two types of factors, ones that cannot be changed and those that can be.
The factors that we cannot change that contribute to high blood pressure are age, race, socioeconomic status, family history and gender. The older a person is the higher the likelihood that they will develop symptoms of high blood pressure. (3)
The older a person gets the more likely they are to have a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. This is simply because they’ve been consuming animal products longer than a younger person.
The buildup of cholesterol in the arteries means that less oxygen in the blood is being carried to other parts of the body. In order to make up for the loss of oxygen in the body, the heart pumps faster and harder to get the oxygen where it needs to go.
As far as race is concerned, African Americans develop high blood pressure more frequently than Caucasians. They are more likely to develop symptoms of high blood pressure at a younger age as well.
Socioeconomic status affects a person’s likelihood of developing high blood pressure because of the types of food they will eat. Less healthy food is often consumed more frequently among the poor, which can contribute to high blood pressure.
In addition, sporting facilities and coordinated activities usually aren’t as prevalent amongst the poor as they are the rich, causing many poor people to live a sedentary lifestyle. When it comes to gender, it is statistically proven that men are more likely to develop high blood pressure. And when it comes to our family history, we simply cannot control our genetic makeup. High blood pressure often runs in families.
There are many things that contribute to signs of high blood pressure that can be changed by changing lifestyle. (2) Obesity, high salt intake, excessive alcohol use, taking birth control pills, being physically inactive and taking certain medications can all be contributing factors to high blood pressure.
If you start to experience signs of high blood pressure, these are some of the first things your doctor will start to ask about.
Treatment options for high blood pressure
There are various types of treatments for high blood pressure. The first things a doctor will recommend are lifestyle changes. (5) As noted above, a doctor will advise you to change your diet to being well balanced and will recommend an active lifestyle.
Often times changing these two things will bring blood pressure back to normal. Simply eating less fat and salt and exercising more can do wonders for the body.
Sometimes changing lifestyle doesn’t always lower a person’s blood pressure into the normal zone. This is often the case for those that have a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure. In that case, there are a number of medications on the market that can help reduce high blood pressure.
Diuretics are often the first type of medication a medical professional will prescribe. These are often times very effective for mildly high blood pressure. What a diuretic, or water pill, will do is dispel sodium from the body more quickly.
Some people who don’t consume much salt in their diet at all can still experience a buildup of sodium in the body. There is no known cause for this but it can be hereditary.
Diuretics are also often combined with other medications such as beta-blockers. These are great for patients that often have advanced medical ailments due to high blood pressure such as those that have heart disease or angina. Beta-blockers ease pressure on the heart by reducing the heart rate when they block adrenaline receptors.
Other types of medications often prescribed are direct vasodilators, blockers of central sympathetic system, angiotensin receptor blockers and calcium channel blockers. They are all designed to help ease pressure on the heart so it doesn’t pump too hard to get the oxygen through the body. (5)
Of course in this day in age many doctors also want to prescribe other treatment options for their patients. Acupuncture has become a more common alternative technique to help those with high blood pressure that can’t seem to reduce it on their own.
Living a low-stress life will allow the heart to experience less pressure. For those whose symptoms are caused by a high-stress life doctors will often recommend yoga and meditation.
Dietary supplements such as fish oil and vitamins are often used in conjunction with other treatment methods. It isn’t known exactly how these help, and there currently are no scientific studies, but many doctors have found that some patients respond well to dietary supplements. (5)
And because they are naturally occurring supplements, there is no need to be concerned when recommending something that doesn’t have a scientific study to back it up since most dietary supplements are good for a person’s body when taken in moderation anyways.