What are the signs of high blood pressure? How do you know if you have it or not?
The bad news is that in most cases you simply can’t tell – high blood pressure, or hypertension, usually has no symptoms that you can detect.
Hypertension is called “the silent killer” because, with time, untreated, it can lead to a variety of health problems, and does so without you noticing anything.
High blood pressure can lead to increased heart size, aneurysms, kidney failure, and Atherosclerosis – where your arteries become damaged, and other serious health problems. In rare cases, you might have headaches or feel dizzy or have urine in your blood. For the most part, you can’t tell if you have high blood pressure.
How Do You Detect High BP – Hypertension?
The good news is that if you are seeing a doctor regularly, it is likely that high blood pressure will be noticed during a checkup.
The best way to detect high blood pressure is by having regular scheduled visits with your doctor. There, the doctor will test your blood pressure. And if it is too high, you can do something about it.
Who is at Risk?
The risk for high blood pressure changes depending on how old you are, what gender, and what race. It can also depend on your health in general. The older you are, the higher your risk.
Depending on your age, your gender also plays a role in your risk for developing high blood pressure. Men tend to have high blood pressure at younger ages than women.
But as women age, the risk for high blood pressure increases until it is actually higher than for men.
African-Americans tend to have a higher risk of developing hypertension.
People with diabetes are at a highly increased risk of developing high blood pressure.
What Causes High BP?
Around 95% of the time, we just don’t know why someone has high blood pressure. This is called “essential hypertension.”
But while we usually can’t say that any one thing causes your high blood pressure, there are a lot of things that put you at risk.
Eating a diet with a high amount of salt is highly correlated with developing high blood pressure. Residents of an island in Japan who consume a diet high in salt have a very high risk of developing high blood pressure, while those who don’t have much smaller.
Being overweight, not getting enough exercise, and smoking also put you at higher risk.
How is The Condition Treated?
The typical approach to treat high blood pressure is to first try lifestyle changes such as trying a diet designed to lower blood pressure, getting more exercise, and reducing stress.
If lifestyle changes do not work or reduce the blood pressure by enough, very often a doctor will prescribe medication to help manage the condition.
For more details, see How to Lower Blood Pressure.
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High Blood Pressure Medication & Two New Findings
We’ve got two new things to consider if you take High Blood Pressure medication.
Millions of people suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension according to the World Health Organization. Most of them have to take medicines to control their blood pressure. Two new findings can have an impact on hypertensive patients. One is about the actual blood pressure reading numbers for which medicines need to be taken. The other is how and when medicines are taken.
Why are Your Numbers Important?
Blood pressure number readings tell the healthcare practitioner if your blood pressure is within the normal range or not. If it is consistently high and not linked to your medical history you may need medications to bring it down to normal levels. Occasional high readings may occur if the patient is suffering from stress, trauma or even an illness.
Most doctors prefer lifestyle changes as the first line of treatment and prescribe medications only if these don’t work. If diet changes, stress reduction and exercise don’t reduce the high blood pressure readings substantially you may be prescribed medication. High blood pressure can run in families.
High blood pressure numbers are typically 140/90 and above. A reading of 140 of the systolic pressure consistently, regardless of the lower number is indicative of high blood pressure. Similarly, a reading of 90 or more of the diastolic pressure regardless of the top number is also indicative of high blood pressure. This is the standard that most doctors base their medical advice on. They also take into account the individual’s complete medical condition and history. The fact is that even a slight deviation on the higher side of normal increases the patient’s risk of suffering from high blood pressure-related ailments like heart disease and stroke.
Are These Numbers Set in Stone?
This is where the problem lies: these numbers are at best fluctuating and keep changing as there is no set standard. What’s more, there is a great deal of controversy regarding the actual figures. A recent study published on December 18, 2013, in JAMA titled 2014 Evidence-Based Guideline for the Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults and authored by Paul A. James, William C. Cushman, Suzanne Oparil and other panel members appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8) used rigorous evidence-based methods, developing evidence statements and recommendations for blood pressure.
The experts used randomized controlled trials and based their recommendations accordingly. They said that people of 60 and older ought to consider figures of 150/90 as normal and should aim for readings below these figures. If the recommendations of this study are followed, then it means that large numbers of people who are on medication for managing their high blood pressure even if it was above 140/90 may have unnecessarily taken medicines. But the story does not end here. Some experts who took part in this study later retracted and said that the old number of 140/90 still held good and that doctors and patients should follow the old guidelines.
Where Does this Leave the Patients of High Blood Pressure?
When medical experts are unsure of their recommendations, it leaves patients even more confused. While it is clear that higher blood pressure levels definitely need to be treated those who fall in between the two supposedly normal levels need to explore their options along with healthcare providers. Your doctor will have to check your medical history and take other parameters into account, including your lifestyle, fitness, and diet before recommending medicines.
If you are measuring your own BP at home, what are the signs of high blood pressure? How do we mortals understand what is considered bad, dangerous, good or even low? The answer is we really have no true benchmark. So using the 120/80 range, if you regularly have readings that are creeping up and higher than either, mention it to your Doctor. Keeping a BP journal is a good idea.
If your readings are constantly a lot higher, then it might be time for a quick appointment with your Doctor. No-one can tell you if you have a real problem, only a Doctor can judge. Your doctor knows your health history and will look for reasons for any high blood pressure. You can then discuss how to lower high blood pressure and take action.
The Time You Take High Blood Pressure Medication
As there is a range of high blood pressure medication choices that work in different ways, it is important to check how and when they are taken. An earlier study, published on October 25, 2011, in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology suggested that taking blood pressure medicines in the night before sleeping may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. This study, conducted by Spanish researchers, followed 661 men and women with slight kidney disease for five and a half years. Half of them were asked to take the medicine in the morning, while the other half took it at night.
At the end of the study period, the researchers said that those who took their medicine in the night were better able to manage their blood pressure and were at reduced risk of heart and stroke patients when compared to the group that took medicines during the day.
Given that each patient had mild kidney disease, this may have had a significant impact on the results or none at all. Always do what your doctor tells you.
Effects of Green Tea on Blood Pressure Medicines
Green tea is supposed to be healthy and has also been credited with reducing blood pressure levels naturally. However, a more recent report published in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics and conducted by Japanese researchers of Fukushima University, followed ten healthy men and women debunked this theory. These participants were told to take 30 mg of Nadolol, a beta-blocker used for controlling high blood pressure. They were also to take two cups of green tea in a day for two weeks. After that period they were told to take only water and not green tea.
The readings were surprising: the researchers found that when the volunteers were taking green tea, the effect of Nadolol reduced by as much as 76 percent. It appears that the chemicals in the green tea react with the medicine and reduce its effectiveness. So people who are on this particular drug may be advised not to drink green tea. However, this study size was small and so larger studies are required before a cause and effect conclusion can be established.
If you are a patient of hypertension, you should talk to your healthcare provider regarding these new findings, particularly if you are a borderline hypertensive. If you have other risk factors or diseases, or have established high blood pressure, you should not change any medicines or stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
When Your High BP Falls
Just because you suffer from Hypertension, does not mean you are stuck with it for life. Age may make it decline, your medications may over correct you, lifestyle changes may effect it. Because of this you should always have your annual physical. If you notice any changes, it could be your high BP is now too low. Seek medical help to make any needed changes in medication.