When your heart pumps blood, pressure is exerted against the walls of the arteries, prompting the term “blood pressure". While your heart is actively pumping blood, your blood pressure is at its highest, referred to as systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest - between beats - your blood pressure falls, this is diastolic pressure. These two numbers are used to determine your blood pressure with the systolic pressure being placed ahead of the diastolic pressure and written one above or before the other, such as 120/80 (normal). Both of these numbers are important. Any reading above 120/80 places the body at risk, the higher the pressure, the greater the risk.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a chronic ailment in which the blood pressure (BP) reading is constantly 140/90 and above. If this pressure rises and remains high for a prolong period it can cause serious damage in the form of: stroke, heart attack, heart failure, arterial aneurysm or kidney failure. Signs of prehypertension are 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom numbers, this is a precursor to high blood pressure and immediate steps should taken to prevent the more serious condition.
The principal types of hypertension are: primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension: The majority of people diagnosed, suffer from primary hypertension with there being no identifiable cause for the illness. Although there are no specific causes the consensus is that: family history, environment, smoking, diet, obesity, salt intake and sensitivity are probable contributors. Secondary hypertension is a condition brought on by an existing heart, arteries or kidney ailment. Similar to primary hypertension there are no overt signs or symptoms, this has given rise to its reputation as “the silent killer”. Additional factors which may contribute to high blood pressure are: tumors, alcohol addiction, thyroid dysfunction, birth control pills, pregnancy and narrowing of the aorta. Most people are not even aware that they are suffering with high blood pressure and it only becomes apparent upon examination by a physician. Unfortunately in a majority of cases by the time a diagnosis is made the disease is in quite an advanced stage.
There’s a two pronged approach to providing treatment for this disease. They are: medication and self care. In situations where the illness is due to the existence of another disease, the high blood pressure will be alleviated once this primary disease is treated. For sufferers of secondary hypertension there are a variety of prescription drugs available: diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Diuretics (Water Pills) – recommended as the first line of treatment, this medication work on the kidneys to help rid your body of sodium and water thus reducing blood pressure.
- Beta blockers – they reduce the effects of excitement and physical exertion on the heart and opens the blood vessels. The heart then beats slower while exerting less force.
- Calcium Channel Blockers – These dilate the arteries thereby reducing the amount of pressure exerted on them, putting less strain on the heart.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE ) inhibitors – Angiotensin II is a chemical produced in the blood which causes the muscles surrounding blood vessels to contract. The inhibitors restrict this activity allowing the blood vessels to enlarge.
- Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers – This medication is similar in function to ACE inhibitors. It prevents angiotensin II from binding to angiotensin II receptors on blood vessels allowing the vessel to enlarge.
Some individuals are predisposed to getting the disease, with age, heredity, race and socio-economic status being some of the contributing factors. Likewise: obesity, sodium sensitivity, excessive alcohol and drug use along with lack of exercise. Whether you already suffer with the illness or are at risk of acquiring it, there are steps which you can take to improve, delay or prevent the rise in blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle, including weight loss, quitting smoking, limit of alcohol intake, a healthy diet and exercise can go a long way towards improving and maintaining your health.
Awareness of your blood pressure numbers can be key to avoiding the serious consequences of neglect. Constant monitoring through use of a home blood pressure monitor or regular checkups by your doctor and following a treatment plan can go a long way towards ensuring long and lasting good health.
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