What Is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts on the walls of your blood vessels. Your arteries carry oxygenated blood from your heart all around your body. When you have blood pressure readings, you will see two numbers. The first or top number is the systolic pressure and the second or bottom number is the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure reading measures your arterial pressure as your heart beats. The diastolic reading measures your arterial pressure between heartbeats.
What Do Blood Pressure Readings Mean?
Having hypertension means that your blood pressure reading does not fall into the normal range on a consistent basis. A blood pressure reading is presented as a range:
- Normal blood pressure is lower than 120 over 80
- Elevated blood pressure is 120 to 129 over less than 80
- Stage 1 high blood pressure is 130 to 139 over 80 to 89
- Stage 2 high blood pressure is 140 and above over 90 and above
A hypertension crisis would be 180 or more over 120 or more and you would need to visit your GP urgently.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are a number of contributing factors to hypertension. You may have a different combination of causes compared to someone else. High blood pressure is considered a ‘silent killer’ which means you can have it for many years without knowing. For some people, the first sign of hypertension could be a heart attack or stroke.
Primary (essential) hypertension
Many people develop high blood pressure without a known or obvious cause. This is called essential or primary hypertension and it usually develops gradually over a period of years.
Some of the causes of primary or essential high blood pressure include:
Using tobacco increases your blood pressure directly and also causes damage to your artery walls, causing them to become narrower.
Being physically inactive
Being physically inactive means you are more likely to have a higher heart rate, forcing your heart to work harder.
Being overweight or obese
When you are overweight your heart has to supply more blood and nutrients and exerts more pressure on your arterial walls.
Consuming too much alcohol
Heavy or binge drinking causes damage to your heart.
Consuming too much salt in your diet
Eating too much salt causes your body to retain water, which elevates your blood pressure.
Hypertension tends to run in families.
High stress levels cause your blood pressure to spike temporarily. When stress is chronic, elevated blood pressure can become a problem.
High blood pressure is more common in men until the age of 64. Women are more likely to develop it after the age of 65.
Other people may develop hypertension suddenly. This is known as secondary hypertension and it is often the result of an underlying health condition like:
- Sleep apnoea
- Chronic kidney disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Adrenal disorders
- Congenital defects with your blood vessels
- Using illegal drugs
Some medications such as certain prescription medications, cold remedies and birth control pills may contribute to hypertension.
Being pregnant can also increase your blood pressure.
The Importance Of Converting To A Healthy Lifestyle
Living a healthy lifestyle can reduce your blood pressure dramatically and improve your quality of life. Unmanaged hypertension puts you at increased risk of a number of health conditions and diseases like
- Memory and cognition problems
- Chronic kidney disease
- Weak or narrow blood vessels in your kidneys
- Damaged blood vessels in your eyes
- Aneurysm, a weakening and bulging of your blood vessels, which can be fatal
- Angina (chest pain)
- Heart failure that is caused by an enlarged or overworked heart muscle
- Heart attack
Because hypertension often doesn’t present with warning signs or symptoms, it’s important to have yours checked on a regular basis or to invest in a monitor that you can use at home.
Taking Blood Pressure Medication
Blood pressure medication relaxes your blood vessels and helps your body to eliminate fluids. It also helps your heart to beat less forcefully and stops your arteries from becoming constricted. If your general practitioner has prescribed blood pressure medication it’s essential that you take it as directed.
In addition, you can live a healthy lifestyle by making positive changes like
- Aiming for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet with less salt and alcohol
- Managing stress levels
- Losing weight
If you still have questions about what causes high blood pressure or if you would like to chat to a professional about how to live a healthier lifestyle, please give us a call: (02) 9884 9300 .
Causes of High Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure Medicines
High blood pressure (hypertension)