High blood pressure or hypertension is a common condition that forces the blood on the walls of the arteries that in most cases is too high. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart that supply your tissues with oxygen and nutrients. In your heart, there are two chambers called ventricles that contract with each heartbeat to make the blood push through your lungs as well as through your arteries to your body. As blood flows there are 3 main factors that affect the pressure on your artery walls.
The first is cardiac output. Meaning the amount of blood your ventricles push out of your heart each minute. Your blood pressure goes up as cardiac output increases. The second factor is blood volume or the total amount of blood in your body. Blood pressure also goes up as blood volume increases. The third factor is resistance, which is anything working against the blood flow through your arteries.(1)
Possible High Blood Pressure Symptoms
- Severe headaches.
- Fatigue or confusion.
- Vision problems.
- Chest pain.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Blood in the urine.
There are several factors that contribute to resistance. The first resistance factor is the flexibilities of your artery wall. Healthy arteries expand with each heartbeat making the body reduce blood pressure on the wall. The second resistance factor is the diameter of your arteries. Your body has the ability to increase the diameter of your arteries to lower your blood pressure or reduce the diameter to raise your blood pressure. The third resistance factor is blood viscosity or thickness in your blood from particles like protein and fat that increase viscosity. If your blood is thicker, your blood pressure goes up as your heart works harder to push through your arteries. (3)
To measure your blood pressure you can use a device called a sphygmomanometer or a blood pressure cuff. When your heart beats, blood pressure on the walls of your arteries is called systolic pressure. When your heart relaxes between beats, pressure on the arteries is called diastolic pressure. Your blood pressure may change throughout the day, so normally less than 120 millimeters of mercury for systolic pressure and less than 80 millimeters of diastolic pressure.
If your systolic pressure consistently stays at 140 or you're diastolic consistently stays above 90, you have High blood pressure. High blood pressure over time will damage the walls of your arteries. Your artery wall can become weak and form an enlargement called an aneurysm. Or the wall may burst to cause bleeding into the surrounding tissue. Tiny tears in your artery wall may cause certain substances in your blood such as cholesterol, fat, and calcium to form a build-up called plaque. Blood flow through your arteries decreases as the plaque enlarges. Blood cells can stick to the plaque and have the ability to form solid clumps called clots. This causes a reduction or completely blocks your blood flow. (4)(5)
Damage to your arteries can raise your blood pressure more than it already is by making your heartbeat more forcefully. Arteries damage and reduced blood flow lead to serious health conditions such as a stroke, heart attack, or kidney disease. In the majority of cases, the cause of high blood pressure or hypertension is unknown. This form of high blood pressure is called primary or essential hypertension.
Treatment for essential hypertension includes lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet. If you are sensitive to sodium in salt your health care professional may recommend limiting your intake of salt and highly processed food. Sodium can cause your body to retain water that may increase both your blood volume and your blood pressure. Other lifestyle changes that can help reduce blood pressure are regularly exercising, limiting alcohol intake, losing weight, and quitting smoking. Your health professional may also recommend meds that act on your kidneys, blood vessels, or heart to help reduce your blood pressure.
Diuretics, Water pills (Diuretics) are used to make your kidneys move more salt and water from your blood into your urine which reduces your blood volume and pressure. Beta-blockers reduce the workload on your heart by decreasing both the rate of your heartbeat and the strengthening rate of your heart contractions. Several types of drugs act directly or indirectly to reduce your blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels which increase your diameter. These drugs include ace inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, and direct-acting vasodilators. (6)
Alternative treatment has also been shown to help with high blood pressure such as eating food with higher nitrates, Exercising daily as mentioned previously, and even supplements like Nitric Oxide that studies have suggested may help open the blood vessels so that blood can flow properly. (7)
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, it is of the utmost importance to get examined by a health professional. We have one life to live and your health is the most important part