If you have high blood pressure, you’re not alone. In the United States, 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. And while high blood pressure doesn’t usually have symptoms, it can cause serious problems like heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
The good news is that high blood pressure can be controlled. There are a variety of treatments available, and often a combination of treatments is best. Lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help lower blood pressure. And there are medications that can help control blood pressure as well.
If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. With proper treatment, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of serious health problems.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure goes up and down throughout the day. It rises when your heart beats, or when you exercise, and it falls when you rest.
Your blood pressure reading has two numbers:
The first (or top) number is called the systolic blood pressure. This is the highest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart pumps out blood. A normal systolic blood pressure is below 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). If your systolic blood pressure is above 120 mm Hg, you have high blood pressure.
The second (or bottom) number is called the diastolic blood pressure. This is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches between heartbeats. A normal diastolic blood pressure is below 80 mm Hg. If your diastolic blood pressure is above 80 mm Hg, you have high blood pressure.
What Are the Risks of High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure can cause serious health problems, including:
Heart Disease – High blood pressure can damage your heart muscle and lead to heart failure. It can also increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Stroke – A stroke happens when a clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain, causing part of the brain to die. High blood pressure can cause strokes.
Kidney Disease – High blood pressure can damage the kidney’s filters, causing them to leak protein into the urine. This can lead to kidney failure.
If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to control it. With proper treatment, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of these health problems.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are many things that can cause high blood pressure, including:
Smoking: Smoking can damage your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease.
Excess Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high blood pressure.
Inactivity: Lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and increase your risk of high blood pressure.
Too Much Salt in The Diet: Eating too much salt can cause the body to retain fluid, which raises blood pressure.
Age: As you get older, your risk of high blood pressure increases.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms. You may not know you have it unless your doctor tests your blood pressure.
Even if you don’t have symptoms, high blood pressure can damage your heart and lead to heart disease, strokes, and kidney disease. That’s why it’s important to control high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is very high, you may have symptoms such as:
- Vision Problems
- Chest Pain
- Shortness of Breath
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?
Your doctor may diagnose high blood pressure if your systolic blood pressure (the top number) is 140 or higher or your diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) is 90 or higher. You may also have high blood pressure if your systolic blood pressure is 120-139 and your diastolic blood pressure is 80-89.
Your doctor may also diagnose high blood pressure if you have other risk factors for developing it, such as:
- A family history of high blood pressure
- Age over 55 years
- Race (African American, Mexican-American, Native American, or Pacific Islander)
- Being overweight or obese
- Having diabetes
- Using tobacco products
- High cholesterol levels
- Kidney disease
- Heart failure
If your doctor diagnoses you with high blood pressure, he or she will likely recommend lifestyle changes and medications to help control it.
What Are the Treatments for High Blood Pressure?
There are two types of treatments for high blood pressure: lifestyle changes and medications. Lifestyle changes can help lower your blood pressure, and medications can help control it if lifestyle changes don’t work.
Lifestyle Changes: Making lifestyle changes is often the first step in treating high blood pressure. These changes can include:
Eating a Healthy Diet: A diet that’s low in fat and salt and rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure. The DASH diet is one eating plan that can help.
Exercising Regularly: Exercise helps increase the strength of your heart and lowers blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week.
Losing Weight: Being overweight puts extra strain on your heart and raises your blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds can help lower your blood pressure.
Limiting Alcohol Intake: Alcohol can raise blood pressure, so it’s best to drink in moderation.
Quitting Smoking: Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and other health problems caused by high blood pressure.
If lifestyle changes don’t help to control your high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications. There are many different types of medications available, and they work in different ways. Your doctor will choose the medication that’s best for you based on your age, health history, and other factors.
Some common medications used to treat high blood pressure include:
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors – These medications help relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Examples include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), and ramipril (Altace).
Angiotensin Receptor Blockers – These medications also help relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Examples include candesartan (Atacand), eprosartan (Teveten), irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar), telmisartan (Micardis), and valsartan (Diovan).
Calcium Channel Blockers – These medications help improve blood flow by relaxing the muscles around your blood vessels. Examples include amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor, Tiazac), isradipine (DynaCirc), and verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan).
Diuretics – Also called water pills, diuretics help your body get rid of extra fluid. This can lower your blood pressure. Examples include chlorothiazide (Diuril), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL, Microzide), indapamide (Lozol), and metolazone (Zaroxolyn).
Beta Blockers – These medications slow down your heart rate and make it easier for your heart to pump blood. Examples include atenolol (Tenormin), carvedilol (Coreg), labetalol (Normodyne, Trandate), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), nadolol (Corgard), propranolol (Inderal, InnoPran), sotalol (Betapace), and timolol (Blocadren).
Vasodilators – These medications open up your blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure. Examples include hydralazine (Apresoline) and minoxidil (Loniten).
Alpha Blockers – These medications help relax the muscles around your arteries and lower blood pressure. Examples include doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress), and terazosin (Hytrin).
How Long Will I Need to Take Medication?
How long you’ll need to take medication for high blood pressure depends on your age, health history, and other factors. Often, you’ll need to take medications for the rest of your life. However, if lifestyle changes and medications help control your high blood pressure, you may only need to take them for a short time. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.
If you’re taking medications for high blood pressure, it’s important to take them as prescribed. Don’t stop taking them without talking to your doctor first. abruptly stopping your medications can cause health problems.
It’s also important to have regular checkups with your doctor while you’re taking medications for high blood pressure. This will help make sure that the medication is working well and that there are no side effects.