What is Blood Pressure?
The heart pumps blood around the body providing energy and oxygen, for which a certain pressure or force is required in the blood vessels, known as blood pressure. However, when the pressure is consistently higher than the recommended safe level, it causes a strain on the blood vessels and heart, which may lead to more serious conditions over time.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and is recorded as two numbers. The first and top number, represents the ‘systolic pressure’; the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts to pump out blood. The second and bottom number, represents the ‘diastolic pressure’; the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats.
Normal blood pressure for adults is a systolic pressure below 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mmHg. It is usual for one’s blood pressure to change through the course of the day during various activities, however it usually returns to the baseline range of 120/80 mmHg. Blood pressure also differs with age and body size.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as Hypertension, is generally a consistent reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher. It doesn’t usually present with symptoms and often goes undetected, until it results in more serious conditions. Hypertension has numerous adverse long-term effects; over time it weakens the blood vessels causing ruptures and scar tissues, it increases the risk of blood clots and a buildup of cholesterol and plaque in the vessels, ultimately leading to multiple organ damage and overall pressure on the body’s circulatory system.
It can be caused by a number of factors such as age, gender, family history, lifestyle habits etc. and is a leading risk factor for developing heart disease, stroke, vision and memory loss and other chronic conditions such as kidney disease, often leading to disability and premature death.
High blood pressure doesn’t usually have obvious signs or symptoms and can go undetected for years. A large proportion of people suffering from Hypertension, have it without being at all aware, as symptoms don’t usually appear until it leads to more serious diseases and conditions when left untreated.
The only way of determining if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. However, a single reading doesn't accurately depict high blood pressure, as blood pressure is affected by numerous activities throughout the day.
Occasionally people with very high blood pressure, may experience symptoms such as persistent headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, nosebleeds, or shortness of breath.
Given the lack of definitive symptoms, it is advisable to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis, especially if you are pregnant or experience other co-morbid diseases such as Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases, Dyslipidemia etc.
In more than 90% of cases, there is no single or specific cause for high blood pressure, and is thence referred to as ‘essential/primary hypertension’. However, there are several factors that may effect and increase your risk of developing hypertension.
Factors that can raise your risk of developing primary hypertension include;
Age: Blood pressure tends to rise with age as blood vessels begin to lose their flexibility, building pressure.
Race/Ethnicity: High blood pressure is more commonly found in people of African American origin.
Gender:A higher percentage of men are likely to develop high blood pressure before the age of 55, while a higher percentage of women are likely to develop high blood pressure after the age of 55.
Family History: Having a family history of high blood pressure significantly raises your risk for the same. Often a sensitivity to sodium and salt is passed through genes, also affecting the likelihood of developing hypertension.
Overweight:You are a lot more likely to develop prehypertension or hypertension if you are overweight or obese, as excess weight puts more strain on the heart and raises blood cholesterol levels, narrowing blood vessels and therefore increasing pressure.
Lack of physical activity:Regular physical activity is good for the body’s circulatory system; therefore, an inactive lifestyle increases the chance of having high blood pressure.
Lifestyle habits:Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as maintaining a poor diet that is high in calories, sugars and salts and low in essential nutrients contributes directly to obesity and therefore high blood pressure. Heavy and regular intake of alcohol can also increase blood pressure dramatically. Other contributing factors include stress, smoking and even lack of sleep.
In fewer cases, the cause for high blood pressure is known as it is brought on by other underlying conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, hormonal conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, conditions effecting the body’s tissue such as lupus, excessive intake of the oral contraceptive pill or painkillers, or even recreational drugs. It is then referred to as ‘secondary hypertension’.
Testing your blood pressure is a quick and easy process. It is carried out by a healthcare practitioner using a sphygmomanometer or commonly known as a ‘blood pressure monitor’. During the test, a rubber cuff is placed around the upper arm, which is then inflated compressing a larger artery in the bicep, momentarily restricting blood flow. As the air is slowly released, the blood begins to pulse through the artery, and the systolic and diastolic measurements are then taken giving a blood pressure reading.
Healthy adults should have their blood pressure checked at least once every five years, whereas adults at an increased risk of high blood pressure should have it checked more often.
Having a high blood pressure reading in one test doesn’t necessarily indicate hypertension, as blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day and often nervousness during the test also impacts the results. Having a consistently high reading in multiple tests over time, more accurately diagnoses hypertension.
If your blood pressure is consistently high, you will likely be prescribed medication in addition to lifestyle modifications. We at the online surgery offer a combination of various treatment options and medicines needed to lower blood pressure effectively.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors
Angiotensin-converting enzyme converts Angiotensin I to Angiotensin II, which narrows blood vessels, increasing blood pressure. ACE inhibitors work to block this process, reducing blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels.
ACE Inhibitor medicines include Ramipril, Lisinopril, and Perindopril.
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)
ARBs block angiotensin II hormone from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. When it is blocked, the blood vessels don’t constrict and narrow, reducing blood pressure.
ARBs include Candesartan and Losartan.
Diuretics flush excessive fluid and salts from your body through urine, reducing blood pressure. These are often used in combination with other high blood pressure medicines.
Diuretic medicines include Bendroflumethiazide, Indapamide and Chlorthalidone.
Calcium Channel Antagonists
CCAs keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels, widening the arteries and thence reducing blood pressure.
CCAs include Amlodipine, Diltiazem, Felodipine and Nifedipine
Alpha blockers reduce nerve impulses that tighten blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely, reducing pressure.
Alpha Blocker medicines include Doxazosin.