Your blood pressure is important. It needs to stay in a healthy range so you can live a long, healthy, and happy life. However, how much do you know about blood pressure? Chances are, you know high is bad, and too low can be bad as well. What are the right numbers? What happens if your blood pressure gets too high? What symptoms come with high blood pressure? We will answer these questions and more so you better understand high blood pressure.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Did you know that 46 percent of adults in the United States have high blood pressure? High blood pressure is considered anything above 120 systolic (top number) and 80 diastolic (bottom number). The following are the ranges of blood pressure:
- Normal: systolic less than 120 diastolic less than 80
- Elevated: systolic 120-129 diastolic less than 80
- Stage 1: systolic 130 - 139 diastolic 80 - 89
- Stage 2: systolic 140 or higher diastolic 90 or higher
- Crisis: systolic 180 or higher diastolic 120 or higher
Elevated Blood Pressure
If your top number is between 120 and 129 and less than 80 diastolic, then you may have elevated blood pressure. Unless you take steps to control your blood pressure now, there is a good chance you will develop high blood pressure as you age.
Stage 1 Hypertension
This stage is when your blood pressure is consistently between 130 and 139 systolic or between 80 and 89 diastolic. Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes that may help lower your blood pressure. Your doctor may prescribe medication at this stage to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. Without making changes, your blood pressure stage could increase to stage 2 hypertension.
Stage 2 Hypertension
This happens when your blood pressure is consistently over 140/90. When your blood pressure is this high consistently, it needs to be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes. If you don’t get stage 2 hypertension under control, you could end up in a hypertensive crisis.
A hypertensive crisis is an emergency and you need to get help right away. If your blood pressure is over 180/120, then wait five minutes and retest it. After you retest your blood pressure with a digital blood pressure monitor, if it hasn’t gone down then it is time to talk to your doctor or head to the emergency room.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Sometimes people don’t experience any symptoms of high blood pressure while others may experience a lot of symptoms. It just depends on your body. The following are some common symptoms people experience with high blood pressure. Keep in mind that everybody is different, so you may not have all of the symptoms or even have no symptoms at all.
- Chest pain
- Vision problems
- Confusion or fatigue
- Difficulty breathing
- Blood in the urine
- Severe headaches
- Pounding in your neck, chest, or ears
- Facial flushing
- Blood spots in eyes
If you have any of the above symptoms talk to your doctor. There are serious health risks that come with high blood pressure, such as stroke or heart attack. It is best to be careful and talk to your doctor or go to the emergency if your blood pressure is high and uncontrollable.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
Sometimes it seems like high blood pressure comes out of nowhere, so what causes it? If high blood pressure is secondary hypertension, which means it's caused by an underlying issue, then you may have thyroid problems, adrenal gland tumors, kidney problems, or sleep apnea.
Other times, high blood pressure is caused by an accumulation of factors. The following are common things that can cause high blood pressure:
- Old age
- Too much salt
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
If you have any of these risk factors, use an electric blood pressure monitor to check your numbers regularly. Write the numbers down so you can give them to your doctor at your next appointment. Keeping a log of your blood pressure will help your doctor find the right treatment for your stage of high blood pressure.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
While you can’t immediately lower your blood pressure, there are things you can do to help lower it over time. The first thing your doctor will likely recommend is changing your lifestyle. This includes getting more exercise, getting on a regular sleep cycle, reducing your salt intake, and improving your overall diet.
The biggest thing you can do is improve your diet. Limit your salt intake by checking labels on your food. Some common foods with high sodium include bread, cold cut meats, pizza, sandwiches, soup, and poultry.
The next thing to do is start exercising. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, a walk around the block will do. Add weightlifting to your regimen to increase your weight loss.
Stress plays a big part in blood pressure. If you find yourself too stressed, try deep breathing and daily meditations. Not only does stress raise your blood pressure, but it can cause unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as unhealthy habits. Keep your stress down and use good coping mechanisms for the highest chance of success.
All About High Blood Pressure
Now that you understand high blood pressure a little more, keep track of your numbers with a digital blood pressure machine. These are portable, easy to use, and will help you track your overall health.