High blood pressure is when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high. The primary way that high blood pressure causes harm is by increasing the workload of the heart and blood vessels, making them work harder and less efficiently.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common disease that develops when blood flows through your arteries at higher-than-normal pressures. Your blood pressure is made up of two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic pressure is the pressure when the ventricles pump blood out of the heart. Diastolic pressure is the pressure between heartbeats when the heart is filling with blood.
Your blood pressure changes throughout the day based on your activities. For most adults, a normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which is written as your systolic pressure reading over your diastolic pressure reading — 120/80 mm Hg. Your blood pressure is considered high when you have consistent systolic readings of 130 mm Hg or higher or diastolic readings of 80 mm Hg or higher.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it. Measuring your blood pressure is the only way to know whether you have high blood pressure.
Myth: People with high blood pressure will experience symptoms like nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping, headache, vision changes, nosebleed, dizziness and facial flushing.
Fact: High blood pressure is a largely symptomless “silent killer.” If you ignore your blood pressure because you think a certain symptom or sign will alert you to the problem, you are taking a dangerous chance with your life.
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What problems does high blood pressure cause?
High blood pressure can quietly damage the body for years before symptoms develop. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to disability, a poor quality of life, or even a deadly heart attack or stroke.
Treatment and lifestyle changes can help control high blood pressure to reduce the risk of life-threatening complications.
Some complications include:
Damage to the arteries
Coronary artery disease
Damage to the blood vessels in the retina
What are the treatments for high blood pressure?
Your primary care provider will develop a treatment plan that may include heart-healthy lifestyle changes alone or with blood pressure medications.
If your high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or medicine, it may improve once the cause is treated or removed.
How do I avoid high blood pressure?
To avoid high blood pressure, adopting some of the healthy lifestyle changes below can lower your risk of ever developing high blood pressure.
Choose heart-healthy foods – limit salt, caffeine and alcohol intake
Get a regular physical
Aim for a healthy weight
Get enough good-quality sleep
Tiffany Pierce, NP, is a primary care nurse practitioner at IU Health Primary Care - Liberty Corner. Learn more at iuhealth.org/find-providers/provider/tiffany-l-pierce-np-70116/.
This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Ask the Expert: High blood pressure is the silent killer