High Blood Pressure, the In’s and Out’s
High blood pressure, also known as HBP or hypertension, is a widely misunderstood medical condition. Some people think that those with hypertension are tense, nervous or hyperactive, but hypertension has nothing to do with personality traits. The truth is, you can be a calm, relaxed person and still have HBP.
Let’s look at the facts about blood pressure so you can better understand how your body works and why it is smart to start protecting yourself now, no matter what your blood pressure numbers are.
By keeping your blood pressure in the healthy range, you are:
- Reducing your risk of your vascular walls becoming overstretched and injured
- Reducing your risk of your heart having to pump harder to compensate for blockages
- Protecting your entire body so that your tissue receives regular supplies of blood that is rich in the oxygen it needs
Blood pressure measures the force pushing outwards on your arterial walls
The organs in your body need oxygen to survive. Oxygen is carried through the body by the blood. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped arteries and veins, also known as blood vessels and capillaries. The pressure — blood pressure — is the result of two forces. The first force occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. The second force is created as the heart rests between heart beats. (These two forces are each represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading.)
The problems from too much force
Healthy arteries are made of muscle and a semi-flexible tissue that stretches like elastic when the heart pumps blood through them. The more forcefully that blood pumps, the more the arteries stretch to allow blood to easily flow. Over time, if the force of the blood flow is often high, the tissue that makes up the walls of arteries gets stretched beyond its healthy limit. This creates problems in several ways.
- Vascular weaknesses
First, the overstretching creates weak places in the vessels, making them more prone to rupture. Problems such as strokes and aneurysms are caused by ruptures in the blood vessels.
- Vascular scarring
Second, the overstretching can cause tiny tears in the blood vessels that leave scar tissue on the walls of arteries and veins. These tears and the scar tissue are like nets, and can catch debris such as cholesterol, plaque or blood cells traveling in the bloodstream.
- Increased risk of blood clots
Trapped blood can form clots that can narrow (and sometimes block) the arteries. These clots sometimes break off and block vessels and the blood supply to different parts of the body. When this happens, heart attacks or strokes are often the result.
- Increased plaque build-up
The same principle applies to our blood flow. Cholesterol and plaque build-up in the arteries and veins cause the blood flow to become limited or even cut off altogether. As this happens, pressure is increased on the rest of the system, forcing the heart to work harder to deliver blood to your body. Additionally, if pieces of plaque break off and travel to other parts of the body, or if the build-up completely blocks the vessel, then heart attacks and strokes occur.
- Tissue and organ damage from narrowed and blocked arteries
Ultimately, the arteries and veins on the other side of the blockage do not receive enough freshly oxygenated blood, which results in tissue damage.
- Increased workload on the circulatory system
Think of it this way: In a home where several faucets are open and running, the water pressure flowing out of any one faucet is lower. But when pipes get clogged and therefore narrow, the pressure is much greater. And if all the household water is flowing through only one faucet, the pressure is higher still.
When the arteries are not as elastic because of the build-up of cholesterol or plaque or because of scarring, the heart pumps harder to get blood into the arteries. Over time, this increased work can result in damage to the heart itself. The muscles and valves in the heart can become damaged and heart failure can result.
Damage to the vessels that supply blood to your kidneys and brain may negatively affect these organs.
You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure can permanently damage your heart, brain, eyes and kidneys before you feel anything. High blood pressure can often lead to heart attack and heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health consequences.
- High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure. The longer it’s left untreated, the more serious its complications can become. But there is also a clear pathway to help you manage high blood pressure and enjoy the many benefits of a healthy heart.
- The American Heart Association provides a complete suite of information and tools to help you learn about HBP and then manage or prevent the disease.
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Monitoring of High Blood Pressure
Many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Most of the time, there are no symptoms, but when high blood pressure goes untreated, it damages arteries and vital organs throughout the body. That’s why high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer.”
There is good news! High blood pressure is treatable!!
Don’t make the mistake of assuming symptoms will alert you to the problem of high blood pressure. Find out about the symptoms myths and understand why HBP is called the “silent killer.”
- How HBP is Diagnosed
Although the only way to tell if you have HBP is to have it checked, the test can be done easily, quickly and painlessly. Upon diagnosis by a healthcare professional, HBP can usually be managed through lifestyle changes and, when prescribed, medication.
- Home Monitoring & Recording
Because blood pressure can fluctuate, home monitoring and recording of blood pressure readings can provide your healthcare provider with valuable information to determine whether you really have high blood pressure and, if you do, whether your treatment plan is working.
- Choosing a Monitor
The American Heart Association recommends an automatic, cuff-style, bicep (upper-arm) monitor. Discover our recommendations for selecting an accurate blood pressure monitor to suit your needs.
- How to Measure
Accurate home recording can help you in your partnership with your healthcare providers. Learn and follow these simple steps for taking accurate home measurements.
We encourage you to live long, healthy and follow these steps:
|Learn about high blood pressure.
Understand what happens when blood pressure is high. Chances are strong that you or someone you care about will be battling this disease.
|Understand the toll high blood pressure takes on your body.|
|High blood pressure can create serious health problems.
Understand the facts so you’ll be motivated to care for your circulatory system and live a heart-healthier life.
|Find out if your blood pressure puts you at risk for serious medical problems.
Enter your latest blood pressure reading to learn your risk of dying from a heart attack, dying from a stroke, developing heart failure and developing kidney disease. You’ll also learn how a few lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure and your health risks. You can print your risk report to review and discuss with your healthcare professional.
|Know your risks for high blood pressure and what you can do to live your healthiest life.
Find out if your lifestyle choices, family history or health factors make you a likely candidate for high blood pressure. You’ll also learn how a few lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure and your health risks.
|Get your blood pressure tested: diagnose and monitor.
A diagnosis can be done quickly, easily and painlessly in a variety of places including a doctor’s or dentist’s office, hospital, clinic, school, nurse’s office, company clinic or at a health fair. And ask your healthcare provider to work with you on a home monitoring plan.
|Prevent and treat: start living a heart-healthier life now!
Even though high blood pressure is serious, your choices will make a big difference in your quality of life. Take charge today.
Source: American Heart Association