High blood pressure, called hypertension, has become increasingly common. According to the World Health Organisation, raised blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths, about 12.8% of the total of all deaths worldwide. The WHO explains that around 40% of the global population above the age of 25 has raised blood pressure.
It’s a dangerous condition, even more so because it’s often symptomless. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the vessels as it flows throughout the body. If it’s consistently too high, it can damage them and the circulatory system as a whole. Called the “silent killer,” it leads to strokes, vision loss, heart attacks, heart failure or kidney disease if it’s not managed well.
Understanding blood pressure readings
The only way to know if you have high blood pressure it to get it checked. If your doctor does find elevated rates, it’s important to monitor your numbers. Many pharmacies have blood pressure machines for you to measure it yourself, and there are also many personal monitors available.
The top number, systolic pressure, measures the vessel pressure when your heart beats. The second, called diastolic pressure, measures when your heart rests between beats. If in hypertensive crisis, you should seek medical care immediately. The American Heart Association explains what the level of risk is for your blood pressure readings:
- Healthy – 120/80
- Prehypertension – Less than 139/89
- Hypertension stage 1 – Less than 159/99
- Hypertension stage 2 – Over 160/100
- Hypertensive Crisis – Over 180/110
Preventing and managing high blood pressure
The most critical component of preventing high blood pressure is a healthy lifestyle. Once you’re diagnosed, proper management can reduce the risk of stroke and other serious cardiovascular disorders. Lower your risk of hypertension or complications by taking these steps:
What Are My Treatment Options?
In addition to healthy habits, the Mayo Clinic explains there are a number of medications use to treat high blood pressure. Some of the treatment drugs include:
- Diuretics, sometimes called water pills, which help your kidneys eliminate sodium and water from your bloodstream.
- Beta blockers, which reduce the workload on your heart and open your blood vessels, causing your heart to beat slower and with less force.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which can help relax blood vessels by blocking the formation of a natural chemical that narrows them.
- Calcium Channel Blockers, which restrict calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels. This allows blood vessels to relax, lowering your blood pressure.
- Alpha Blockers, which reduce nerve impulses that tighten blood vessels and allow blood to flow more freely.
Because there are so many different kinds, it’s vital your physician has correctly diagnosed your high blood pressure and comorbidities, and is taking all of that into account when developing an effective treatment plan. If you’re unsure, a second opinion is the best way to ensure your diagnosis and treatment are correct.