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High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the force of blood pushing through your vessels is
consistently too high.
What is high blood pressure?
Narrow blood vessels, also known as arteries, create more resistance for blood flow. The narrower
your arteries are, the more resistance there is, and the higher your blood pressure will be. Over the
long term, the increased pressure can cause health issues, including heart disease.
Hypertension is quite common. In fact, since the guidelines changed in 2017, nearly half of American
adults could now be diagnosed with this condition.
Hypertension typically develops over the course of several years. Usually, you don’t notice any
symptoms. But even without symptoms, high blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels
and organs, especially the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys.
Early detection is important. Regular blood pressure readings can help you and your doctor notice any
changes. If your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor may have you check your blood pressure over
a few weeks to see if the number stays elevated or falls back to normal levels.
Treatment for hypertension includes both prescription medication and healthy lifestyle changes. If the
condition isn’t treated, it could lead to health issues, including heart attack and stroke.
How to understand high blood pressure readings
Two numbers create a blood pressure reading. Systolic pressure (top number) indicates the pressure in
your arteries when your heart beats and pumps out blood. Diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the
reading of the pressure in your arteries between beats of your heart.
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Five categories define blood pressure readings for adults:
Healthy: a healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm hg).
Elevated: the systolic number is between 120 and 129 mm hg, and the diastolic number is less than 80
mm hg. Doctors usually don’t treat elevated blood pressure with medication. Instead, your doctor may
encourage lifestyle changes to help lower your numbers.
Stage 1 hypertension: the systolic number is between 130 and 139 mm hg, or the diastolic number is
between 80 and 89 mm hg.
Stage 2 hypertension: the systolic number is 140 mm hg or higher, or the diastolic number is 90 mm hg
or higher.
Hypertensive crisis: the systolic number is over 180 mm hg, or the diastolic number is over 120 mm hg.
Blood pressure in this range requires urgent medical attention. If any symptoms like chest pain,
headache, shortness of breath, or visual changes occur when blood pressure is this high, medical care
in the emergency room is needed.
A blood pressure reading is taken with a pressure cuff. For an accurate reading, it’s important you
have a cuff that fits. An ill-fitting cuff may deliver inaccurate readings.
Blood pressure readings are different for children and teenagers. Ask your child’s doctor for the
healthy ranges for your child if you’re asked to monitor their blood pressure.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension is generally a silent condition. Many people won’t experience any symptoms. It may
take years or even decades for the condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become
obvious. Even then, these symptoms may be attributed to other issues.
Symptomstrusted source of severe hypertension can include:
Blood spots in the eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhage)

According to the american heart associationtrusted source, contrary to popular thought, severe
hypertension doesn’t typically cause nosebleeds or headaches — except when someone is in
hypertensive crisis.
The best way to know if you have hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings. Most
doctors’ offices take a blood pressure reading at every appointment.
If you only have a yearly physical, talk with your doctor about your risks for hypertension and other
readings you may need to help you watch your blood pressure.
For example, if you have a family history of heart disease or have risk factors for developing the
condition, your doctor may recommend that you have your blood pressure checked twice a year. This
helps you and your doctor stay on top of any possible issues before they become problematic.
What causes high blood pressure?
There are two types of hypertension. Each type has a different cause.

Essential (primary) hypertension
Essential hypertension is also called primary hypertension. This kind of hypertension develops over
time. Most people have this type of high blood pressure.
A combination of factors typically play a role in the development of essential hypertension:
Genes: some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or
genetic abnormalities inherited from your parents.Age: individuals over 65 years old are more at risk for hypertension.
Race: black non-hispanic indiviuals have a higher incidence of hypertension.
Living with obesity: living with obesity can lead to a few cardiac issues, including hypertension.
High alcohol consumption: women who habitially have more than one drink per day, and men who
have more than two drinks per day, may be at an increased risk for hypertension.
Living a very seditary lifestlye: lowered levels of fitness have been connected to hypertension.
Living with diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome: individuals diagnosed with either diabetes or
metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.
High sodium intake: there’s a small association between daily high sodium intake (more than 1.5g a
day) and hypertension.

Secondary hypertension
Secondary hypertension often occurs quickly and can become more severe than primary hypertension.
Several conditionstrusted source that may cause secondary hypertension include:
Kidney disease
Obstructive sleep apnea
Congenital heart defects
Problems with your thyroid
Side effects of medications
Use of illegal drugs
Chronic consumption of alcohol
Adrenal gland problems
Certain endocrine tumors
Diagnosing high blood pressure
Diagnosing hypertension is as simple as taking a blood pressure reading. Most doctors’ offices check
blood pressure as part of a routine visit. If you don’t receive a blood pressure reading at your next
appointment, request one.
If your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor may request you have more readings over the course of
a few days or weeks. A hypertension diagnosis is rarely given after just one reading.
Your doctor needs to see evidence of a sustained problem. That’s because your environment can
contribute to increased blood pressure, like the stress you may feel by being at the doctor’s office.
Also, blood pressure levels change throughout the day.

If your blood pressure remains high, your doctor will likely conduct more tests to rule out underlying
conditions. These tests can include:
Cholesterol screening and other blood tests
Test of your heart’s electrical activity with an electrocardiogram (ekg, sometimes referred to as an
Ultrasound of your heart or kidneys
Home blood pressure monitor to monitor your blood pressure over a 24-hour period at home
These tests can help your doctor identify any secondary issues causing your elevated blood pressure.
They can also look at the effects high blood pressure may have had on your organs.
During this time, your doctor may begin treating your hypertension. Early treatment may reduce your
risk of lasting damage.

Treatment options for high blood pressure
A number of factors help your doctor determine the best treatment option for you. These factors
include which type of hypertension you have and what causes have been identified.
Primary hypertension treatment options
If your doctor diagnoses you with primary hypertension, lifestyle changes may help reduce your high
blood pressure. If lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough, or if they stop being effective, your doctor
may prescribe medication.
Secondary hypertension treatment options
If your doctor discovers an underlying issue causing your hypertension, treatment will focus on that
other condition. For example, if a medication you’ve started taking is causing increased blood
pressure, your doctor will try other medications that don’t have this side effect.
Sometimes, hypertension is persistent despite treatment for the underlying cause. In this case, your
doctor may work with you to develop lifestyle changes and prescribe medications to help reduce your
blood pressure.
Treatment plans for hypertension often evolve. What worked at first may become less useful over
time. Your doctor will continue to work with you to refine your treatment.
Many people go through a trial-and-error phase with blood pressure medications. Your doctor may
need to try different medications until they find one or a combination that works for you.
Some of the medications used to treat hypertension include:

Beta-blockers: beta-blockers make your heart beat slower and with less force. This reduces the
amount of blood pumped through your arteries with each beat, which lowers blood pressure. It also
blocks certain hormones in your body that can raise your blood pressure.
Diuretics: high sodium levels and excess fluid in your body can increase blood pressure. Diuretics, also
called water pills, help your kidneys remove excess sodium from your body. As the sodium leaves,
extra fluid in your bloodstream moves into your urine, which helps lower your blood pressure.
Ace inhibitors: angiotensin is a chemical that causes blood vessels and artery walls to tighten and
narrow. Ace (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors prevent the body from producing as much of
this chemical. This helps blood vessels relax and reduces blood pressure.
Angiotensin ii receptor blockers (arbs): while ace inhibitors aim to stop the creation of angiotensin,
arbs block angiotensin from binding with receptors. Without the chemical, blood vessels won’t
tighten. That helps relax vessels and lower blood pressure.
Calcium channel blockers: these medications block some of the calcium from entering the cardiac
muscles of your heart. This leads to less forceful heartbeats and a lower blood pressure. These
medications also work in the blood vessels, causing them to relax and further lowering blood pressure.
Vessels to tighten. This helps blood vessels to relax, which reduces blood pressure.
Home remedies for high blood pressure
Healthy lifestyle changes can help you control the factors that cause hypertension. Here are some of
the most common ones.
Developing a heart-healthy diet
A heart-healthy diet is vital for helping to reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important for managing
hypertension that’s under control and reducing the risk of complications. These complications include
heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.
A heart-healthy diet emphasizes:
Whole grains
Lean proteins like fish
Increasing physical activity
In addition to helping you lose weight (if your doctor has recommended it), exercise can help lower
blood pressure naturally, and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activitytrusted source each week. That’s about 30
minutes, 5 times per week.
Reaching an optimal weight
If you’re living with obesity, maintaining a moderate weight with a heart-healthy diet and increased
physical activity can help lower your blood pressure.
Managing stress
Exercise is a great way to manage stress. Other activities can also be helpful. These include:

Deep breathing
Muscle relaxation
Yoga or tai chi
Getting adequate sleep may also help reduce stress levels.
Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol
If you’re a smoker and have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will most likely
advise you to quit. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the body’s tissues and harden blood
vessel walls.
If you regularly consume too much alcohol or have an alcohol dependency, seek help to reduce the
amount you drink or stop altogether. Drinking alcohol in excess can raise blood pressure.
Lifestyle tips to lower your risk of hypertension
If you have risk factors for hypertension, you can take steps now to lower your risk for the condition
and its complications.
Add fruits and vegetables to your diet
Slowly work your way up to eating more servings of heart-healthy plants. Aim to eat more than seven
servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Then aim to add one more serving per day for 2 weeks.
After those 2 weeks, aim to add one more serving. The goal is to have 10 servings of fruits and
vegetablestrusted source per day.
Limit refined sugar
Try to limit the amount of sugar-sweetened foods, like flavored yogurts, cereals, and sodas, you eat on
a daily basis. Packaged foods hide unnecessary sugar, so be sure to read labels.
Reduce sodium intake
People living with hypertension and those with an increased risk for heart disease may be advised by
their doctor to keep their daily sodium intake between 1,500 milligrams and 2,300 milligrams per
daytrusted source.
The best way to reduce sodium is to cook fresh foods more often and limit the amount of fast food or
prepackaged food you eat, which can sometimes be very high in sodium.
Set weight loss goals
If your doctor has recommended you lose weight, talk with them about an optimal weight loss goal
for you. The centers for disease control and prevention (cdc)trusted source recommends a weight loss
goal of one to two pounds a week. This can be achieved through a more nutritious diet and increased
physical exercise.

Employing the help of a trainer or fitness app, and possibly even a dietician, are all methods to help
you learn how to make the best choices for your body and your lifestyle.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly
The best way to prevent complications and avoid problems is to recognize hypertension early.
Keep a log of your blood pressure readings and take it to your regular doctor appointments. This can
help your doctor see any possible problems before the condition advances.

High blood pressure during pregnancy
People with hypertension can deliver healthy babies despite having the condition. But it can be
dangerous to both the birthing parent and baby if it’s not monitored closely and managed during the
People with high blood pressure who become pregnant are more likely to develop
complicationstrusted source. For example, pregnant women with hypertension may experience
decreased kidney function. Babies born to birthing parents with hypertension may have a low birth
weight or be born prematurely.
Some people may develop hypertension during their pregnancies. Several types of high blood pressure
problems can develop. The condition often reverses itself once the baby is born. Developing
hypertension during pregnancy may increase your risk for developing hypertension later in life.

In some cases, pregnant people with hypertension may develop preeclampsia during their pregnancy.
This condition of increased blood pressure can cause kidney and other organ complications. This can
result in high protein levels in the urine, problems with liver function, fluid in the lungs, or visual
As this condition worsens, the risks increase for the mother and baby. Preeclampsia can lead to
eclampsia, which causes seizures. High blood pressure problems in pregnancy remain an important
cause of maternal death in the united states. Complications for the baby include low birth weight,
early birth, and stillbirth.
There’s no known way to prevent preeclampsia, and the only way to treat the condition is to deliver
the baby. If you develop this condition during your pregnancy, your doctor will closely monitor you for

What are the effects of high blood pressure on the body?
Because hypertension is often a silent condition, it can cause damage to your body for years before
symptoms become obvious. If hypertension isn’t treated, you may face serious, even fatal,
Complications of hypertension include the following.

Damaged arteries
Healthy arteries are flexible and strong. Blood flows freely and unobstructed through healthy arteries
and vessels.
Hypertension makes arteries tougher, tighter, and less elastic. This damage makes it easier for dietary
fats to deposit in your arteries and restrict blood flow. This damage can lead to increased blood
pressure, blockages, and, eventually, heart attack and stroke.

Damaged heart
Hypertension makes your heart work too hard. The increased pressure in your blood vessels forces
your heart’s muscles to pump more frequently and with more force than a healthy heart should have
This may cause an enlarged heart. An enlarged heart increases your risk for the following:
Heart failure
Sudden cardiac death
Heart attack
Damaged brain
Your brain relies on a healthy supply of oxygen-rich blood to work properly. Untreated high blood
pressure can reduce your brain’s supply of blood:
Temporary blockages of blood flow to the brain are called transient ischemic attacks (tias).
Significant blockages of blood flow cause brain cells to die. This is known as a stroke.
Uncontrolled hypertension may also affect your memory and ability to learn, recall, speak, and
reason. Treating hypertension often doesn’t erase or reverse the effects of uncontrolled hypertension.
But it does lower the risks for future problems.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a very common health issue in the united states.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your treatment plan will vary depending
on factors. These include the severity of your high blood pressure, and what medication your doctor
thinks will work best for you.
The good news is that in many cases of hypertension, lifestyle changes can be powerful tools for
managing, or even reversing, your diagnosis.)
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Visit the nhs website for more information on hypertension