Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Arteries carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: Systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, and diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. When left uncontrolled and untreated, the damage that high blood pressure does to your circulatory system increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke, so it’s best to avoid high blood pressure altogether.
Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure but many do not know they have it because high blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms, which is why it is known as the silent killer. When symptoms do occur, they can include early morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms, vision changes, and buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors. For the majority of adults, measuring your blood pressure remains the only way to know whether you have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure usually develops over time. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity or certain health conditions such as diabetes and obesity. High blood pressure can also happen during pregnancy. Other risk factors are:
- Being overweight and not getting enough exercise
- Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure, so choose healthy meal and snack options and be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Physical activity can help keep you at a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or bicycling, every week. That’s about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the amount of blood flow through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
- Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow and increase your risk of heart disease. Secondhand smoke also can increase your heart disease risk.
- Unhealthy diet
- Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure. Too little potassium in your diet can also be harmful because potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet, or you lose too much potassium due to dehydration or other health conditions, sodium can build up in your blood.
- Alcohol Use
- Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men may affect your blood pressure. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
- Not getting enough Sleep
- Getting enough sleep is important to your overall health, and getting enough sleep is part of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy. Regularly not getting enough sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
High blood pressure can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease. High blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or be blocked, causing a stroke. Having high blood pressure, especially in midlife, is linked to having poorer cognitive function and dementia later in life. Adults with diabetes, high blood pressure, or both have a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease than those without these conditions.
Do you currently have high blood pressure, or have you had a high blood pressure reading in the past? Do you have a family history of or any risk factors for high blood pressure? If you have answered yes to any of the previous questions, Med First can help! Our healthcare teams have the experience and skills necessary to diagnose and treat high blood pressure or any health factors that put you at risk for developing high blood pressure. Don’t put your health off. We have 19 locations, extended hours and days, for new patients or existing patients, we have you covered! Schedule your appointment and take the necessary steps to ensure your blood pressure is under control.