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What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure doesn't show any noticeable symptoms until it becomes severe. Few short-term fluctuations in blood pressure are normal — for example, stress or anxiety can cause a short spike in blood pressure.
This guide will explain how to tell if your blood pressure is too high and what you can do to reduce your blood pressure immediately.
With each heartbeat, your heart squeezes blood through a network of tubes called arteries. Blood pressure refers to the tension — or pressure — your blood places on the walls of your arteries as it passes through your body.
Blood pressure fluctuates regularly throughout the day — stressful moments raise your blood pressure, while peaceful ones keep it in the normal range, which is around 120/80 mmHg.
Blood pressure is regarded as high when it's specifically over 130/80 mmHg. Hypertension is when your blood pressure remains higher than the normal range for a few months or longer. Continuous tension on your arterial walls can increase your risk of health problems like heart attack, stroke, as well as loss of brain, eye, and kidney function.
What causes high blood pressure?
Many factors can contribute to high blood pressure, including:
- Age and gender. While women may experience hypertension more frequently after the age of 65 years, men are more likely to experience it much earlier in life.
- Chronic conditions. Some chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and related kidney disease, can increase your risk of high blood pressure.
- Diet. An unhealthy diet is also a common cause of hypertension. Too much salt or too little potassium can cause sodium build-up in your bloodstream — leading to fluid retention, which increases blood pressure. Dehydration can affect this balance as well.
- Family history. High blood pressure can be hereditary — which means that you may inherit it from your parents or ancestors.
- Physical activity. A lack of exercise can weaken your cardiovascular system a lot, making your heart pump blood faster than it should normally. Obesity and being overweight are also common causes of high blood pressure — a larger amount of tissue to which your heart must supply oxygen translates to increased strain on your arteries.
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Tobacco use by smoking or chewing can cause an immediate spike in blood pressure while doing long-term damage to your arterial walls. Excessive amounts of alcohol can damage your heart and cause hypertension too.
- Stress. Stress is one of the most common causes of high blood pressure.
Can you tell when your blood pressure is too high?
In most cases, unless your condition is severe, you won't experience any recognizable symptoms of high blood pressure.
Because blood pressure can spike or drop regularly, a single blood pressure test is not enough to diagnose hypertension. Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure with regular testing over a few months to determine if your blood pressure is consistently above the healthy range. They'll use a blood pressure cuff to measure your systolic pressure — when your heart contracts — and your diastolic pressure — when your heart relaxes.
How can you lower your blood pressure in 30 seconds?
It can take months, or even years, for your blood pressure to reach constantly unhealthy levels. Speak to your doctor about the treatment and lifestyle changes necessary to bring your blood pressure back down to healthy levels.
Because high blood pressure rarely shows symptoms until your situation becomes serious, feelings associated with short-term spikes in blood pressure are often the result of stress. Frequent or sustained stress over a long time can increase your blood pressure, so practices that calm your stress can have both short-term and long-term health benefits.
If you're experiencing symptoms associated with a hypertensive crisis, dial 911 immediately. Professional medical help is important to treat the effects of severe hypertension. You can also consider some of these 30-second deep breathing techniques and other simple practices to lower your blood pressure immediately in the short term.
Practice deep breathing exercises
Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to slow your heart rate. Just 30 seconds of deep breathing can have a measurable effect on your blood pressure.
Make yourself comfortable. Find a quiet space, lay down with pillows to support your neck and legs, and close your eyes. Try to focus on your breathing with 4 to 6-second intervals between deep breaths. Expand your diaphragm as you breathe — this increases your oxygen intake. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.
You can find many guided breathing exercises on music or video streaming services. The presence of a narrator guiding you through the exercise can be calming and provide structure — allowing you to focus on your breathing.
Take a warm shower
A long, warm shower or bath can relieve muscle tension, which places external pressure on the walls of arteries within your skeletal muscles.
Meditate or read
Stress is often the result of a psychological trigger. Calming or clearing your mind can relax many of the physical symptoms due to stress, such as muscle tension, elevated heart rate, and dizziness.
You can also opt for guided meditation — you can find helpful resources via many free apps or videos. Reading a book or magazine can also have a similar effect. It can help you overcome the feelings of being overwhelmed by making you zero on a single thing and taking your mind off the things that are causing you stress.
How can you keep your blood pressure low naturally?
While the practices mentioned above can help you lower your blood pressure immediately, high blood pressure is a long-term condition, which calls for long-term treatment. You can take the following steps to manage your blood pressure effectively:
- Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity can strengthen your heart and help your cardiovascular system operate more effectively. About 30 minutes of low-impact physical activity daily can have a meaningful impact. This, combined with a healthy diet, can help you lose excess weight that contributes to high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is dangerous to your general health, including that of your heart and arteries. Just 1 hour after you stop smoking, your blood pressure can decrease considerably.
- Moderate your alcohol intake. Limiting your alcohol intake — to one drink per day for women and to two drinks per day for men — helps you keep your blood pressure in check.
- Get enough sleep. Your blood pressure is usually at its lowest while you sleep. Getting enough sleep every night helps your body regulate blood pressure more effectively.
- Embrace the DASH Diet. Healthy sodium levels in your system can help you regulate fluids more efficiently. With a low-sodium, high-potassium diet — known as the DASH diet — you'll see long-term reductions in your blood pressure in only a few weeks.
- Maintain healthy stress levels. Using the stress management tips provided above and taking steps to manage your exposure to stressors in your daily life can have long-term positive effects on your blood pressure.
Take control of your blood pressure
High blood pressure, even when hereditary, can be controlled with healthy lifestyle choices and by taking medications prescribed by your doctor. Check with your doctor to learn more about the risks associated with high blood pressure and if there are other methods you can use to reduce it.
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The American Journal of the Medical Sciences: "Racial differences in hypertension: implications for high blood pressure management."
Cleveland Clinic: "DASH Diet: What Is It, Meal Plans and Recipes"
Heart Foundation: "Managing high blood pressure."
Hypertension Research:: "How does deep breathing affect office blood pressure and pulse rate?"
Vital Heart & Vein: "Breathing Techniques to Lower Blood Pressure."
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Can High Blood Pressure (HBP) Cause Blood in Urine?Blood in your urine is also known as hematuria. Very rarely, it is caused by high blood pressure (HBP) — also known as hypertension.
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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a disease in which pressure within the arteries of the body is elevated. About 75 million people in the US have hypertension (1 in 3 adults), and only half of them are able to manage it. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it often has no has no warning signs or symptoms.
Systolic and diastolic are the two readings in which blood pressure is measured. The American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for high blood pressure in 2017. The guidelines now state that blood normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If either one of those numbers is higher, you have high blood pressure.
The American Academy of Cardiology defines high blood pressure slightly differently. The AAC considers 130/80 mm Hg. or greater (either number) stage 1 hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension is considered 140/90 mm Hg. or greater.
If you have high blood pressure you are at risk of developing life threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack.
REFERENCE: CDC. High Blood Pressure. Updated: Nov 13, 2017.
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