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Your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the biggest cause of disability and death in the UK. It refers to the force exerted by circulating blood against the walls of blood vessels, primarily the arteries, as the heart pumps it throughout the body. It is commonly expressed in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and represented by two numbers: systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is the higher number and represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pumps blood, while the diastolic pressure is the lower number and represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between beats.

About Hypertension

Blood pressure is an essential indicator of cardiovascular health and is influenced by various factors such as cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute), peripheral resistance (the resistance of blood vessels to blood flow), blood volume, and the elasticity of arterial walls. It can fluctuate throughout the day in response to physical activity, stress, emotions, and other factors.

Normal blood pressure is typically around 120/80 mmHg, with the systolic pressure of 120 and the diastolic pressure of 80. Blood pressure values above this range can indicate hypertension (high blood pressure), which is a condition that, if left untreated, can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. On the other hand, blood pressure values consistently below the normal range may indicate hypotension (low blood pressure), which can also have adverse effects on the body and may cause symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, and fatigue.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a medical condition characterized by persistently elevated blood pressure levels in the arteries. It is a common health issue and a significant risk factor for various cardiovascular diseases.

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and expressed as two numbers: systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pumps blood, while diastolic pressure represents the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.

Hypertension is typically diagnosed when blood pressure consistently exceeds 130/80 mmHg. However, the specific thresholds for diagnosis and treatment may vary depending on factors such as age, underlying health conditions, and individual risk assessments.

There are two primary types of hypertension:

  1. Primary (essential) hypertension: This is the most common type, accounting for about 90-95% of hypertension cases. The exact cause is often unknown, but it is influenced by a combination of genetic factors and lifestyle choices such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking.

  2. Secondary hypertension: This type is caused by an underlying medical condition or medication. It can be the result of kidney disease, hormonal disorders, certain medications (e.g., oral contraceptives, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), adrenal gland problems, or other factors. Secondary hypertension tends to appear suddenly and may cause higher blood pressure levels than primary hypertension.

 

Hypertension is often called the "silent killer" because it usually does not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. However, if left untreated, it can significantly increase the risk of serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, and damage to other organs.

Managing hypertension involves a combination of lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication. Lifestyle modifications include adopting a balanced and low-sodium diet (such as the DASH diet), engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and managing stress. Medications, such as diuretics, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), or calcium channel blockers, may be prescribed by healthcare professionals to help lower blood pressure.

Regular monitoring of blood pressure and routine check-ups with a healthcare provider are crucial for individuals with hypertension to ensure proper management and reduce the risk of complications.

See Controlling your Blood Pressure - Harvard Health Publishing [Harvard Medical School]

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