Adena provides the highest quality hypertension treatment in a patient centered environment at many of our locations across southern central Ohio.
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- Adena Regional Medical Center
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension is another term for chronic high blood pressure. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to severe health complications, including increased risk for heart disease, stroke and death. It is important to understand this disease, how to recognize it and how to treat it.
According to the CDC about 29% of American adults – or 75 million people – have high blood pressure. The condition costs the US about $46 billion annually in healthcare services, medications and productivity (missed days of work).
Hypertension is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because there are usually few obvious symptoms or warning signs. Your best defense against hypertension is to get your blood pressure checked regularly.
Elevated blood pressure is the signature characteristic of hypertension. Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood against artery walls as it circulates through the body. Blood pressure can go up and down throughout the day, but extended periods of high blood pressure can cause major health issues. When you have your blood pressure taken, there are two numbers. Here’s what they mean:
- Systolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the top number in the reading. It shows how much pressure the blood is exerting against the artery walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic pressure. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number in the reading. It shows how much pressure the blood is exerting against the artery walls when the heart is resting between beats.
According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure ranges and what they mean are as follows:
- Normal. A normal blood pressure range is a reading of less than 120/80 mm Hg.
- Elevated. A blood pressure range of between 120 and 129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic is considered elevated.
- Stage 1 Hypertension. A blood pressure range of between 120 and 129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic is considered elevated.
- Stage 2 Hypertension. A blood pressure range of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is a sign of hypertension stage 2.
- Hypertensive crisis. Blood pressure readings higher than 180/120 mm Hg constitute a medical emergency and require immediate attention.
A hypertension headache may be one of the signs of high blood pressure, although the research on this point is mixed. The onset of a headache could be a symptom of hypertensive crisis, and this would likely be accompanied by nausea, chest pain and blurred vision. If you’re experiencing a hypertension headache it is important that you seek medical attention right away.
In many cases, the exact cause of hypertension is unknown, but there are known risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of having hypertension. These include:
- Age. The condition is most prevalent among people aged over 60 years. As people age, blood pressure can increase steadily as the arteries become more stiff and narrow due to plaque build-up.
- Sex. Men are more likely to have hypertension at a younger age, although the lifetime prevalence between men and women is about equal.
- Ethnicity. Certain ethnic groups are more prone to hypertension than others.
- Size and weight. Being overweight or obese is the most critical risk factor for hypertension.
- Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol in excess. Both of these behaviors can increase a person's blood pressure.
- Having other health conditions. Heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and chronic kidney disease can all lead to hypertension.
- Eating a diet high in salt and processed foods. Eating too much salt leads to the kidneys being unable to remove the water from your system, which ultimately increases blood pressure because of the extra fluid.
Hypertension Treatment Options
If you receive a hypertension diagnosis from your doctor, it is important to make changes in your life right away in order to avoid serious health complications down the road.
Medications are available to help people treat hypertension. Your doctor will likely just prescribe one antihypertensive treatment at first, but the majority of people ultimately require a combination of at least two medications. The range of medication types include:
- diuretics, including thiazides, chlorthalidone, and indapamide
- beta-blockers and alpha-blockers
- calcium-channel blockers
- central agonists
- peripheral adrenergic inhibitor
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- angiotensin receptor blockers
The drug most appropriate for you will depend on how severe your hypertension is and whether or not you have other co-occurring medical conditions. Make sure to speak with your doctor about any other medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter medications, as antihypertensives may interact with other drug types.
Lifestyle and Home Hypertension Treatments
Making lifestyle adjustments can pay major dividends in preventing and treating hypertension at home. In fact, lifestyle changes are the healthiest way to combat the condition. Things you can do to support a healthy blood pressure range include:
- Having your blood pressure checked regularly. Most pharmacies offer this service so you don’t have to make a doctor’s appointment
- Stick to a healthy diet high in vegetables and fruits and low in sodium
- Keep your weight in a healthy range
- Exercise and stay physically active
- Limit alcohol intake
- Quit smoking, if applicable
- Prevent diabetes or treat diabetes appropriately, if applicable