What is high blood pressure?

If your blood pressure is elevated and you want to see an immediate change, lie down and take deep breaths. This is how you lower your blood pressure within minutes, helping to slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is elevated and you want to see an immediate change, lie down and take deep breaths. This is how you lower your blood pressure within minutes, helping to slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure.

A blood pressure reading is taken to measure how forcefully your blood flows through your circulatory system. There are two numbers associated with blood pressure:

Systolic: This is the higher number and measures blood pressure during a heartbeat. 

Diastolic: This is the lower number and measures blood pressure in between heartbeats. 

Normal blood pressure for you may be different than another person’s average blood pressure. You may naturally have blood pressure that averages higher or lower. However, blood pressure that is above or below your normal range can result in negative health problems. 

Your blood pressure is considered normal with a reading of 120/80. It is considered low once it falls to 90/60 or lower. High blood pressure is measured at varying levels:

Elevated: 120-129/80 or less

Hypertension stage 1: 130-139/80-89

Hypertension stage 2: 140 or higher/90 or higher

Hypertension stage 3: Higher than 180/higher than 120

Many people with high blood pressure may not even know they have it. This is why it’s often called the silent killer. You can occasionally have headaches but other symptoms are rare.

Causes of high blood pressure

Causes of high blood pressure

High blood pressure builds slowly over time. This is one reason you may not notice your symptoms. Unhealthy lifestyle choices like poor diet and a lack of exercise are factors that impact your blood pressure. 

Other health conditions like diabetes and obesity increase your risk for high blood pressure.

Who can have high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can affect anyone. These risk factors increase your chance of developing the condition: 

  • Family history: Your close relatives with high blood pressure increase your risk since it is often a genetic condition. 
  • Age: The elderly are more at risk for high blood pressure as blood vessels gradually lose some of their elastic quality with time
  • Sex: Up to the age of 64, men are more likely to get high blood pressure than women. The opposite is true for ages 65 and above.
  • Race: African-Americans have an elevated risk of high blood pressure.
  • Kidney disease: This condition is tied to an increase in blood pressure.

How do you know if you have high blood pressure?

High blood pressure doesn’t cause many symptoms. Checking it regularly is the only way to know if your blood pressure is high or low. 

Diagnosing high blood pressure

Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose high blood pressure. Your doctor will check your blood pressure to see what your reading is. 

If your doctor suspects that your high blood pressure is the symptom of another medical condition, you’ll need to complete more specific tests to learn more. If another condition is discovered, treating it should have a positive impact on your blood pressure.

QUESTION

Salt and sodium are the same. See Answer

Treatments for high blood pressure

If your blood pressure is elevated and you want to see an immediate change, lie down and take deep breaths. This is how you lower your blood pressure within minutes, helping to slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure. 

When you feel stress, hormones are released that constrict your blood vessels. This produces a temporary spike in your blood pressure. 

By pausing to quiet your mind and body, these hormone levels will decrease. This will help lower your blood pressure to normal levels.

Risks and complications of high blood pressure

All medications have the potential for side effects, so talk to your doctor about what to expect. Since other medical conditions are the leading causes of high blood pressure, your doctor will talk to you about your options for treating any other medical conditions you have. 

The greatest risk lies in not addressing your high blood pressure. 

Leaving it untreated can cause damage to your blood vessels, heart, and organs. It also puts you at risk for stroke and heart attack. Talk to your doctor about any blood pressure-related concerns you may have. 

Other ways to lower your blood pressure over time include:

If you are unable to control your blood pressure using these methods, talk to your doctor. You may need medication to help lower your blood pressure. 

How does diet affect high blood pressure?

Experts agree that changing your diet can lower your blood pressure. One of the first changes your doctor will recommend is reducing the amount of sodium you eat. Salty foods cause you to retain fluids, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure.

You should also focus on eating unprocessed foods that are rich in nutrients and fiber. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains should make up the core of your diet. Processed foods and refined grains and sugars are less helpful when trying to lower your blood pressure.

What you drink matters for cardiovascular health as much as what you eat. Alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and sugary sodas are shown to increase the risk of high blood pressure. Cutting back on these types of drinks will help you get your blood pressure down to your ideal levels.

SLIDESHOW

How to Lower Blood Pressure: Exercise and Tips See Slideshow

Will drinking water lower blood pressure?

Water is not a miracle cure for hypertension. Simply drinking more water without making other diet changes won‘t solve your health problems. Water should instead be part of your bigger plan for healthy eating.

Most experts recommend drinking 4-6 cups of water per day. You can get most of the required amount from drinking it. Eating fruits and vegetables, which are naturally high in fluids, will also help you get the water you need each day.

Drinking water has many benefits, including:

  • Carrying nutrients and oxygen to the rest of your body
  • Protecting joint function
  • Protecting organs and other soft tissues
  • Regulating your body temperature

Water directly benefits blood pressure by helping you maintain the correct electrolyte balance. You need both sodium and potassium in your body for optimal heart function. If you have too much of either one, your blood pressure can fluctuate, and your risk of heart attack or stroke increases. Staying hydrated helps keep up the balance of those two important nutrients. 

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Other steps to reduce blood pressure

In addition to changes to diet, you can reduce your blood pressure by making lifestyle changes. Simple changes can have a big impact on your health.

Exercise

Movement is one of the best ways to boost your cardiovascular health. Most experts suggest 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week. You don’t need to adopt a hardcore workout routine to see benefits. Taking walks or going for bike rides is a great way to add more movement to your day.

Weight loss

Losing weight is one of the most effective ways to improve your blood pressure. Any weight loss is helpful, so you don’t need to feel discouraged if you don’t make dramatic progress. Getting your weight down by even 10 pounds can make a big difference.

Stress reduction

The hormones you release in response to stress and anxiety increase your heart rate and constrict your blood vessels. This causes blood pressure to spike in the short term. In the long term, stress makes you prone to poor health habits like overeating or not getting enough sleep. Relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing can help you control stress. 

Other considerations

You may need medication to bring your blood pressure down. Your doctor will suggest a prescription that can help you get your blood pressure under control. Over time, you may be able to stop the medication. You can continue making lifestyle changes while relying on medicine for improvements. Your diet, hydration, and exercise routines might be enough to manage your hypertension over the long term.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/9/2022
References
American Heart Association: “What is High Blood Pressure?”

American Heart Association: “Know Your Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes.”

Harvard Medical School: “6 simple tips to reduce your blood pressure.”

Mayo Clinic: “10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication.”

National Health Service: “High blood pressure (hypertension).”