Temporary blood pressure rise is a natural reaction to, for example, physical exertion, stress or fear. If the pressure is not normalized afterward, it can be harmful to the body. Long-term high blood pressure is often due to a combination of heredity and lifestyle factors – overweight is a common risk factor. Lifestyle changes and drugs can reduce the risk of developing hypertension.
As of 2014, approximately one billion adults or 22% of the global population have hypertension, but many do not know about it. It is one of the clearest risk factors behind stroke and heart attack. High, uncontrolled blood pressure can also increase the risk of diabetes, kidney disease, heart failure, angina and dementia.
Normal blood pressure in a healthy adult can range from 90-129 / 60-84 mmHg. At high blood pressure, either or both values may be elevated.
Blood pressure is affected by both physical and mental factors. It varies from person to person and even during the day. At rest, blood pressure drops, as well as during the summer and in warm climates.
The older we get, the higher our blood pressure.
The causes of high blood pressure are not entirely clear because it involves a complex interaction between different organs, hormones and the central nervous system. But at the same time, we know a lot: Genetic factors are often an explanation for high blood pressure, as well as lifestyle factors such as stress, unhealthy eating habits, too little exercise, smoking or too high alcohol consumption.
When blood pressure is high, it can also indicate atherosclerosis. When fat is formed in the vessel walls, the blood passes less easily through the vessels – forcing the blood to flow faster and blood pressure to rise. High blood pressure requires the heart to work harder to pump blood into the body. It can lead to serious illnesses that are sometimes life-threatening. The coronary arteries can suffer from constrictions that cause myocardial infarction.
- Primary hypertension
In most people with elevated blood pressure, there is no single, clear explanation. Often it is a combination of hereditary traits and lifestyle factors. This common type of hypertension is called primary or essential hypertension.
- Secondary hypertension
In more unusual cases, high blood pressure may be the result of other diseases. Then it is called secondary hypertension. It is a symptom that can be caused by, for example, hormonal disorders, kidney disease or certain drugs.
Malignant hypertension is a more uncommon condition characterized by very high blood pressure, kidney problems and vascular damage – the condition can be a result of both primary and secondary hypertension.
Sometimes, high blood pressure is due to pain, anxiety or so-called hospital anxiety at the time of the examination. Therefore, the blood pressure may need to be checked on several occasions to be sure that it is a prolonged elevated pressure.
Hypertension is called a “silent killer”. Most people with hypertension are unaware of the problem because it may have no warning signs or symptoms. For this reason, it is essential that blood pressure is measured regularly.
When symptoms do occur, they can include early morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms, vision changes, and buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors.
The only way to detect hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure. Having blood pressure measured is quick and painless. Individuals can also measure their own blood pressure using automated devices, however, an evaluation by a health professional is important for assessment of risk and associated conditions.
Prevention and protection
You can do a lot to avoid high blood pressure yourself. Because elevated pressure is often caused by your own lifestyle, dietary changes and physical activity can make a big difference in lowering blood pressure as well as levels of blood fats and blood sugar. Then you reduce the risk of suffering from, for example, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Reduce the risk of high blood pressure as follows:
- maintain normal body weight for adults (e.g. body mass index 20–25 kg/m2)
- reduce dietary sodium intake to <100 mmol/ day (<6 g of sodium chloride or <2.4 g of sodium per day)
- engage in regular aerobic physical activity such as brisk walking
- limit alcohol consumption to no more than 3 units/day in men and no more than 2 units/day in women
- consume a diet rich in fruit and vegetables (e.g. at least five portions per day);
If you want to check your blood pressure, you can get help from some pharmacies – or contact your health care provider. You can also buy your own blood pressure monitor.
Blood pressure is measured using a blood pressure cuff. To determine which treatment is required at high blood pressure, a number of factors are weighed – BMI (Body Mass Index) and waist measurements provide important information such as alcohol consumption and smoking. Blood and urine tests show aberrant values for, for example, blood sugar, blood fats and salts in the blood. ECG (electrocardiogram) is also used as a measuring instrument to detect possible arrhythmia – when palpitations are also a common symptom.
No matter how severe hypertension this is, both blood pressure-lowering drugs and lifestyle changes are often required in the form of more exercise, reduced caloric intake and smoking cessation. If the investigation shows signs of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood fat or other disease conditions, more targeted measures are required.
When to consult a doctor
If your blood pressure at rest is over 140/90 on repeated measurements, you should consult your healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, you should seek care if your blood pressure exceeds 140-160 / 90-110.
If you have high blood pressure, or suspect that you have high blood pressure, in combination with severe headaches or shortness of breath, contact the emergency room. This also applies to a blood pressure of over 200/120, even if you are not experiencing symptoms.
How APPOTEK can help
If you suspect high blood pressure, APPOTEK can help you. A nurse or a physician can make an individual assessment based on your symptoms. You may then be prescribed treatment or referred for further treatment. High blood pressure requires a physical examination.