Maybe you have a family history. Maybe you’ve been really stressed recently. Or maybe you just have a gut feeling—it never hurts to check to see if you have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Nearly 30% of adult Americans have hypertension, and 1 in 5 don’t know they have it, because most of those afflicted don’t show symptoms.
Even without any obvious effects, hypertension is no joke—the damage it causes to the circulatory system increases the risk of many serious diseases and conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease.
So, what is hypertension, exactly? Basically, it’s when your blood pressure, which is the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels, is consistently and chronically too high. Healthy blood vessels are flexible, strong, and elastic, but hypertension causes harm by increasing the workload for your heart and blood vessels—they work harder and less efficiently. Over time this damages the arteries, which also leads to the formation of LDL cholesterol plaque, further raising blood pressure. Hypertension makes the blood vessels stiff, narrowed, and unable to respond to changing demands of critical organs including the heart, brain, and kidneys. Doesn’t sound great, right? So, what causes it, and how can we prevent and control this condition?
What are common hypertension symptoms?
As mentioned earlier, a lot of individuals that have high blood pressure don’t even show symptoms. But there are some clear-cut signs that signal an issue might be present. Severe headache, fatigue, vision problems, trouble breathing, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain are all possible symptoms of high blood pressure.
What are causes of high blood pressure?
- Family history: if you have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, you are more at risk for high blood pressure.
- Age: as we age, the risk for high blood pressure increases. In addition, before age 65, men are more likely than women to have high blood pressure, but after age 65, women are more likely to be diagnosed.
- Race: blacks are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure than other races, and are also more likely to be diagnosed earlier in life and have more severe complications.
- Weight: obesity and weight gain are major risk factors for hypertension.
- Inactivity: inactivity increases the risk of developing hypertension and regular exercise can reduce the blood pressure in those who have hypertension.
- Tobacco use: smoking and chewing tobacco both temporarily (but immediately) raise your blood pressure, and the chemicals in tobacco damage the lining of your arterial walls
- Diet: high sodium causes your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure. Too little potassium in your diet, though not easy to do, also increases the risk of hypertension. For some people with hypertension, potassium supplementation can lower their blood pressure.
- Alcohol: heavy drinking can lead to hypertension.
How to prevent hypertension?
What are ways to prevent hypertension, even if you are genetically predisposed to it? The American Heart Association has a few recommendations, including:
- 90 – 150 minutes of aerobic and/or dynamic resistance exercise per week
- Avoiding tobacco and secondhand smoke
- Eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats and high in fruits, nuts, and vegetables
- Limiting sodium intake to under 1,500 mg/day
- Aiming to eat 3,500—5,000 mg of potassium a day
If you are concerned about your blood pressure or whether symptoms that you are having are related to hypertension, stop by a vybe urgent care today. All our locations do blood pressure screenings and can help you figure out what to do next.