The best way to know if you are at risk is by having your blood pressure read. The normal rate is 120/80. The top rate is called the systolic pressure and measures the pressure when your heart beats. The lower number is called the diastolic pressure, and this measures the pressure between heartbeats when your heart refills with blood.
Hypertension has no known cause. People with hypertension have a reading that averages 140/90 or higher. If your reading is between 120-139 and 80-89, for systolic and diastolic pressure respectively, you might have a condition called prehypertension. This range increases your risk of developing heart disease. To lower your reading doctors will recommend lifestyle changes.
People with a reading of 180/110 or higher may have hypertensive crisis and might experience anxiety, nosebleeds, shortness of breath and a severe headache. This condition can lead to a stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, or loss of consciousness. Seek medical attention.
Hypertension affects more men and women equally as they age. Men are more likely to develop hypertension before the age of 45, and more women will develop hypertension by the time they are 65. Your risk for hypertension is higher if you have a family member who has high blood pressure, or if you have diabetes.
Found in salt, sodium causes the body to retain fluid, and can put a strain on the heart, leading to increased blood pressure. Processed foods such as canned soups and cold cuts contain a lot of sodium. The American Heart Association advises eating less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
While stress can make your blood pressure rise, there’s no evidence that it relates to blood pressure as a chronic condition. Stress, however, may indirectly cause hypertension because it increases the risk for heart disease. Stress is also likely to lead to other unhealthy habits like poor diet, smoking, or drinking alcohol.
Drinking alcoholic beverages can also increase blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that men limit their drinks to 2 drinks* per day, while women reduce it to one.
*Definition of a drink: a 12 oz. beer (355 ml), a 4 oz. glass of wine (118ml), a 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits (44ml of 40% alcohol), and 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits (30ml of 50% alcohol).
This has a temporary effect on blood pressure and studies have not found a link between hypertension and caffeine. Nonetheless, the American Heart Association recommends not more than one or two cups a day
Several medications can cause blood pressure to rise, such as decongestants, steroids, birth control, NSAID painkillers, and certain anti-depressants.
There are several ways to lower blood pressure. A change in diet is one such way. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet was designed to do so. It focuses on increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, and nuts consumed and avoiding red meats, saturated fats, and sugars.
Side effects of ACE inhibitors: dry cough, skin rash, or dizziness, and high levels of potassium.
Side effects of Angiotensin II block receptors: dizziness, muscle cramps, insomnia, and high levels of potassium.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Another part of the body you could block to fight hypertension is your calcium channel. Calcium causes your heart to contract strongly. Blockers slow the movement of calcium in your blood vessels and heart cells, resulting in your heart being contracted more gently and a more relaxed blood flow. These pills need to be taken with milk or food, and you should avoid alcohol and grapefruit juice because they have possible interactions.
Calcium channel blocker side effects: dizziness, heart palpitations, swelling of the ankles, and constipation
Medications and Complementary Therapies
Your doctor might suggest other blood pressure medications such as vasodilators, alpha blockers, and central agonists. Along with lifestyle changes, doctors also might recommend complementary therapies such as meditation, yoga, tai chi and deep breathing. These relaxation techniques can allow your body to enter a state of deep rest, and lower blood pressure. Herbal therapies are not recommended because they often interfere with blood pressure medication.