In 2021, almost 47% of adults in the United States are reported to have hypertension. But only one in four have their blood pressure under control. This is quite concerning because high blood pressure could cause more serious health issues and can damage important organs. But, how will you know if you have hypertension?
What is blood pressure?
A beating heart pushes blood through the arteries which are responsible for carrying it to the rest of the body. The continuous movement of blood puts pressure on the walls of the arteries. This force is called blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, occurs when our blood moves through our arteries at a higher pressure than normal. This disorder can damage many parts of the body. If one has high blood pressure, it increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, heart attack, and kidney failure.
What is considered high blood pressure?
Blood pressure involves two measurements—systolic and diastolic. A sphygmomanometer or BP monitor would show a systolic pressure over diastolic pressure reading. Systolic refers to the pressure produced in the arteries when the heart contracts or beats. Diastolic is the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes, which is between heartbeats.
According to the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association, a normal BP is less than 120 over less than 80 and an elevated BP is 120 to 129 over less than 80. These definitions may differ slightly from other expert groups.
People with elevated BPs are more likely to develop hypertension:
- Stage 1: 130 to 139 over 80 to 89
- Stage 2: At least 140 over at least 90
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension usually doesn’t show any warning signs or symptoms. That’s why most people who have it don’t know they have it. The only way to find out is by measuring your blood pressure. There are, however, some symptoms that people often associate with high blood pressure. While some could be related in some way, some aren’t.
High blood pressure doesn’t cause headaches and nosebleeds, no matter how high it gets. Blood spots in the eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhage) are more common in people with hypertension but aren’t caused by it. Floaters in the eyes are also more common in people with high BP but aren’t symptoms of hypertension.
Facial flushing occurs when blood vessels in the face dilate. It can occur unpredictably or in response to certain triggers such as sun exposure, cold weather, spicy foods, wind, hot drinks, and skin-care products. Facial flushing can also occur with emotional stress, exposure to heat or hot water, alcohol consumption, and exercise — all of which can raise blood pressure temporarily. While facial flushing may occur when your blood pressure is higher than usual, hypertension isn’t the cause of facial flushing.
While dizziness can be a side effect of some medications, it’s not caused by hypertension. However, dizziness shouldn’t be ignored, especially if the onset is sudden. Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, and trouble walking are all warning signs of a stroke. These could be signs of a stroke.
Risk factors for hypertension
The real cause of hypertension is difficult to identify. Still, there are factors to be considered to find out if an individual is at risk of developing this health condition.
- Age – the older you get, the higher the risk
- Overweight or obese
- History of hypertension in the family
- Belongs to the African American ethnic group
- Has a high sodium diet
- Drinks a lot of alcohol
- Lack of physical activity
How is hypertension diagnosed?
Hypertension is often diagnosed through routine testing. People 40 years of age and older with no history of high blood pressure can have their BP checked once a year. Those who often have elevated BPs or have risk factors should get screened more frequently.
Should I go to urgent care for high blood pressure?
Your healthcare provider is always the best person to talk to when you have questions or concerns about high blood pressure. Since urgent care centers are open at longer times and including weekends and holidays, you can walk in or book an appointment for hypertension screening.
After a good few minutes of rest, the doctor will check your blood pressure. If it’s found to be high or elevated, they may ask you to monitor your BP at home. In some cases, the BP of patients tends to increase when in the presence of a healthcare provider. This is called “white coat hypertension”.
To confirm real and accurate results, the doctor will use the readings you get at home and compare them with the ones you got in the doctor’s office. This will help them provide you with a proper diagnosis.
Hypertension can be prevented
It’s possible to lower blood pressure and keep it within a healthy range by making lifestyle changes. Some of the healthy habits you can start integrating into your life are:
- Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week. This could be basic exercises, sports, a walk, a jog, or biking. Make sure that it’s something you’re capable of doing. Don’t overexert yourself.
- Avoid smoking. If you’re currently in the habit, work to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke until you can eventually quit it.
- Limit your alcohol intake. It’d be helpful to also minimize drinking carbonated drinks.
- Eat food that has low sodium content. You don’t have to eliminate salty foods from your diet, just keep them to a minimum.
- Lose some extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Make sure that you do so healthily and naturally.
- Manage stress levels by staying away from anything that could stress you out. Learning relaxation techniques can also help.
If you have elevated blood pressure or hypertension and are unable to control it, talk with your healthcare provider right away. You may need to take medications to help lower it and keep it at a healthy level.