One in every three adults in the US has high blood pressure. Many never realize it because they may not experience any adverse symptoms. However, high blood pressure can contribute to a number of health problems when left unchecked.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure refers to excessive pressure on the arteries as your blood is moved throughout your body.

Blood pressure readings are given as a pair of numbers: the top number is the systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure when your heart contracts. The bottom number, diastolic pressure is the pressure in your arteries as your heart relaxes.

A normal blood pressure level is under 120/80. People who have pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 have what is known as pre-hypertension. When numbers get to 140/90 and above, this is considered high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is further broken into two categories. Those under 149/99 are considered to have stage 1 high blood pressure. Those with levels above 160/100 are considered stage 2.

High blood pressure is dangerous because it means that the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body.

Causes of high blood pressure

The exact causes of high blood pressure are unknown. However, research has shown that these conditions and activities can play a role in the development of high blood pressure:

  • being overweight or obese.
  • smoking.
  • a lack of physical activity.
  • excessive alcohol consumption, typically more than one to two drinks per day.
  • a diet that contains too much salt.
  • excessive stress.
  • a family history of high blood pressure.
  • sleep apnea.
  • chronic kidney disease.
  • thyroid disorders.
  • genetics.
  • older age.

High blood pressure is more common in men than women. It has also been found to be correlated with race, with people who are black or Hispanic being twice as likely to experience high blood pressure.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

In many cases, high blood pressure presents no symptoms. Because of this, one in three people who have high blood pressure do not know they have it.

People whose blood pressure is extremely high may experience symptoms that include:

  • chest pain.
  • severe headaches.
  • fatigue.
  • confusion.
  • vision problems.
  • difficulty breathing.
  • bloody urine.
  • a pounding sensation in the chest, ears or neck.
  • an irregular heartbeat.

High blood pressure is dangerous because of the other health problems it can cause. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and kidney disease. Treating high blood pressure is associated with a far lower incidence of heart attack and stroke.

Treatment for high blood pressure

Treating high blood pressure typically starts with lifestyle factors. Losing weight if you are overweight or obese can dramatically lower your blood pressure. Eating a healthy diet that is rich in fiber and low in saturated and total fat can both help with weight loss and reduce blood pressure. For many people, reducing sodium levels is also effective; you should be consuming no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day if you have high blood pressure. Getting regular exercise can also help. Experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise several days a week.

Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure? We can discuss treatments that can help you lose weight and get your numbers down to healthy levels. Get in touch to learn more today.