High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): What You Need to Know

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries (blood vessels). When this force is too high, it is called hypertension.

Did you know that high blood pressure or hypertension is the number one cause of death in the world? It’s a serious condition, and if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. If you have high blood pressure, you are not alone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans has hypertension. This means that you have a good chance of knowing someone who is dealing with this condition.

Unfortunately, many people do not know they have high blood pressure because there are often no symptoms. That is why it is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of high blood pressure, as well as some of the risks associated with it. We will also provide tips on how to manage hypertension.

What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries (blood vessels). When this force is too high, it is called hypertension.

Your blood pressure is considered high if it is consistently above 140/90 mmHg where 140 is the systolic pressure and 90 is the diastolic pressure.

If you have a blood pressure reading of 120/80 mmHg or lower, you have normal blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is given as the systolic blood pressure number over the diastolic blood pressure number.

The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.

If your reading is between 120/80 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg, you have pre-hypertension. This means that you are more likely to develop hypertension unless you make some lifestyle changes.

What are the types of hypertension?

There are two types of hypertension: primary and secondary.

Primary hypertension

It is also known as essential hypertension is the most common type of hypertension, and it develops over time. This means that the cause is unknown.

Secondary hypertension

It is caused by other medical conditions, such as kidney disease, sleep apnea, adrenal gland tumors, thyroid problems, certain medications, metabolic syndrome, or illegal drugs.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

As we mentioned, many people with hypertension do not experience any symptoms. This is why it is often called the “silent killer.”

When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • headaches
  • nosebleeds
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • chest pain

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor so that you can be checked for hypertension.

What causes high blood pressure?

Many risk factors can contribute to hypertension. Some of the more common causes include:

  • A family history of high blood pressure
  • Age (the risk increases as you get older)
  • Race: African Americans are at increased risk for high blood pressure.
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a diet high in salt
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Chronic conditions can increase your risk for high blood pressure. Conditions like kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can all lead to high blood pressure

If you have any of these risk factors, it is important to talk to your doctor about ways to lower your blood pressure.

Why should I be concerned about high blood pressure?

When your blood pressure is persistently high, the heart has to work harder and harder to pump blood throughout your body. It may become so overworked that it will begin to fail.

Additionally, high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems such as damage to the arteries can cause heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

If you have symptoms of hypertension, or if your blood pressure (BP) is consistently above 140/90 mmHg, your doctor will likely diagnose you with hypertension.

Your doctor will take your BP using a blood pressure cuff placed around your arm. They may also order a blood test to check for conditions that can cause hypertension, such as kidney disease or sleep apnea.

Your doctor may also order a urine test to check for protein in your urine. This can be a sign of kidney damage from hypertension.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, talk with your health care team about your blood pressure levels and how these levels affect your treatment plan.

How is high blood pressure treated?

The good news is that hypertension can be treated. Treatments for high blood pressure include healthy lifestyle changes and medicines.

If you have pre-hypertension, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing hypertension.

These changes include:

  • Eating a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is low in salt, fat, and sugar can help lower blood pressure.
  • Exercising regularly: Getting regular exercise can help lower blood pressure.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help lower blood pressure.
  • Limiting alcohol intake: Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure. If you drink, it is important to limit your intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking can raise blood pressure and damage your arteries. Quitting smoking can help reduce your risk of developing hypertension.
  • Reducing stress


If you have hypertension, your doctor will likely prescribe blood pressure medication in addition to lifestyle changes. The type of medication will depend on your situation.

Some common medications used to treat hypertension include:

  • ACE (Angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors are a type of medication used to treat hypertension. They work by relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the workload of the heart. For example, benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), and enalapril (Vasotec).
  • ARBs (Angiotensin II receptor blockers) work by blocking the hormone angiotensin II, which can cause blood vessels to constrict. For example, Valsartan, losartan, and irbesartan.
  • Calcium channel blockers work by relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the heart rate. For example, amlodipine, felodipine and lacidipine.
  • Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline, which can cause the heart rate to increase. For example, Acebutolol, Atenolol, Bisoprolol, and Metoprolol.

Doctors usually don’t treat elevated blood pressure with medication. Instead, your doctor may encourage lifestyle changes to help lower your numbers.

If you have hypertension, it is important to work with your health care team to manage your condition. This may include regular check-ups and monitoring of your blood pressure.

It is also important to take your medication as prescribed and make lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure. With proper treatment, you can live a long and healthy life.

What are the complications of high blood pressure?

If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems. These problems include:

  • Cardiovascular Disease such as heart failure a condition that means your heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to your other organs.
  • Stroke: High blood pressure can cause arteries supplying blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or become blocked, resulting in a stroke.

Brain cells die after a stroke as a result of their inability to get enough oxygen. A stroke may lead to serious limitations in speech, mobility, and other daily activities.

  • Kidney disease: High blood pressure can damage your kidneys and lead to kidney failure. Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys can no longer remove waste and fluids from the body.
  • Eye problems: High blood pressure can cause vision problems and even blindness.
  • Memory problems
  • Dementia: Narrowed or blocked arteries can limit blood flow to the brain, leading to a certain type of dementia (vascular dementia).

Severe hypertension can lead to serious health problems if left unchecked, so getting it diagnosed as soon as possible is critical.

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