Are You At Risk For Hypertension?


What is high blood pressure? Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. If you have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, the pressure in your arteries is too high. Blood pressure measurements are written as two numbers – 110/70 mm Hg or 150/95 mm Hg. The top number is known as the systolic blood pressure, or the blood pressure in your arteries when your heart is contracting.

The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure, or the pressure in your heart as it fills with blood, between contractions. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. Systolic blood pressure greater than 140/90 mm Hg is considered “hypertension” and all the values that fall in between, from 120 mm Hg to 139 mm Hg systolic and from 80 mm Hg to 89 mm Hg diastolic, are considered “prehypertension. Except for pregnancy, treatment of hypertension is the most common reason for adults to visit their doctor’s office in the United States.

A recent survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2005-2008), estimates that up to 31 percent of American adults have hypertension. Most people over the age of 65 have hypertension, so the prevalence of high blood pressure in the US is likely to increase as the population ages.Of the approximately 78 million Americans with hypertension, only about 50% have their blood pressure well controlled.

Blood pressure control is important, since high blood pressure over a period of time can damage organs, including the kidneys, heart, and brain.

Blood pressure is a significant predictor of risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease. In patient over the age of 50, the systolic blood pressure is a better predictor of risk.

In younger patients, the bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, is a better predictor of risk of heart disease than the systolic number.With the widespread availability of well-priced automatic blood pressure cuffs, more people diagnose their high blood pressure at home. If your average reading is 130/80 mm Hg or above over a 24-hour period, you have hypertension. A daytime average of 135/85 mm Hg or above or a nighttime average of 120/79 mm Hg or above also meets the ambulatory blood pressure monitoring criteria for hypertension. Daytime readings that repeatedly average more than 135/85 mm Hg should prompt you to visit your healthcare provider.

There are several risk factors associated with developing primary hypertension, the most common type of high blood pressure. Advancing age, obesity, family history, and black race are all associated with increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Other risk factors for high blood pressure include diabetes, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption.

There are personality traits associated with a higher risk of developing hypertension, including depression, hostility, and impatience. Vitamin D deficiency has also been identified as a risk factor for hypertension. Smoking raises blood pressure,  just one more reason to quit.

Sometimes, hypertension results from secondary causes, such as use of certain medications. Oral contraceptives, especially those with higher doses of estrogen, can raise blood pressure in some patients. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen (Motrin) and Naprosyn, can increase blood pressure, so it’s wise to monitor your blood pressure if you have been on these medications for a prolonged period of time. Stimulant medications, including some taken for weight loss, are one cause of hypertension. Decongestants, including pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), will raise blood pressure, and if you have hypertension, use of decongestants should be avoided. Glucocorticoid drugs, like prednisone, will increase your blood pressure and have a multitude of other potential side effects.Some people may have high blood pressure as a result of another disease or health condition. Renovascular hypertension refers to narrowing or blockage in the arteries that supply the kidney. This results in water and salt retention and increased blood pressure. Other common diseases that result in hypertension include obstructive sleep apnea, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and primary hyperaldosteronism.

The only way to determine whether or not you have high blood pressure is to measure your blood pressure. High blood pressure rarely causes symptoms, but it will harm your organs over time. Have your blood pressure checked today!

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