Your blood pressure measurement takes into account how much blood is passing through your blood vessels and the amount of resistance the blood meets while the heart is pumping.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the force of blood pushing through your vessels is consistently too high. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of hypertension, including its symptoms, causes, how it’s treated, and more.
What is high blood pressure?
Narrow blood vessels, also known as arteries, create more resistance for blood flow. The narrower your arteries are, the more resistance there is, and the higher your blood pressure will be. Over the long term, the increased pressure can cause health issues, including heart disease.
Hypertension is quite common. In fact, since the guidelines changed in 2017, nearly half of American adults could now be diagnosed with this condition.
Hypertension typically develops over the course of several years. Usually, you don’t notice any symptoms. But even without symptoms, high blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels and organs, especially the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys.
Early detection is important. Regular blood pressure readings can help you and your doctor notice any changes. If your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor may have you check your blood pressure over a few weeks to see if the number stays elevated or falls back to normal levels.
Treatment for hypertension includes both prescription medication and healthy lifestyle changes. If the condition isn’t treated, it could lead to health issues, including heart attack and stroke.
Signs and symptoms
Most people with high blood pressure will not experience any symptoms, which is why people often call hypertension the “silent killer.”
However, once blood pressure reaches about 180/120 mm Hg, it becomes a hypertensive crisis, which is a medical emergency.
At this stage, a person may have:
- a headache
- blurred or double vision
- heart palpitations
Anybody who experiences these symptoms should see their doctor immediately.
Symptoms in women
Hormonal factors mean that the risk of high blood pressure may be different in males and females.
Factors that can increase the risk of high blood pressure in females include:
- the use of birth control pills
During pregnancy, high blood pressure can be a sign of preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that can affect the woman and her unborn baby.
Symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- vision changes
- abdominal pain
- swelling due to edema
All women should follow the guidelines for screening and attend all health checks, especially during pregnancy.
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