Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a condition that is often linked to cardiovascular problems, and, sadly, over 100 million Americans suffer from it.
In many cases, people don’t even realize they have high blood pressure. The combination of not knowing and continuing to make unhealthy dietary and lifestyle choices mean the risks of complications only increase the longer your problem isn’t addressed.
You can manage high blood pressure, but knowing the symptoms and the complications that can result from leaving it untreated can help you better understand why your condition needs attention as soon as possible.
Residents of the Beverly Hills, California, area looking for ways to manage their blood pressure can get help from Dr. Shawn Veiseh and his skilled medical team. Our patients enjoy comprehensive care for many chronic conditions with onsite diagnostic services and urgent care services to help you get better.
Let’s look at blood pressure basics, the causes of hypertension, and the complications of leaving it untreated.
Blood pressure basics
Blood pressure is the force that moves your blood through your circulatory system, the series of veins, blood vessels, and arteries necessary to carry proteins, nutrients, and other basic essentials your body needs to live.
Think of the pressure of water as it moves through pipes in your house’s plumbing. Too much pressure and the pipes run the risk of bursting; too little pressure and water may not get where it needs to go.
In order for your body to function normally, it should maintain a specific blood pressure, which is measured by the amount of systolic and diastolic pressure in your arteries (in milliliters of mercury, or mmHg). Here’s how that works:
- Systolic pressure: the top number that measures the blood pressure in your arteries when your heart beats
- Diastolic pressure: the bottom number that measures the pressure in your arteries between heart beats
When you’re getting a blood pressure check, a sphygmomanometer (the rubber armband with the pump that blows it up and releases the air) is used to measure the two numbers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies the blood pressure readings in the following way:
- Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or below
- Elevated is considered 120-129/80 or below
- Stage 1 hypertension is 130-139/80-89
- Stage 2 hypertension is over 140/over 90
High blood pressure causes
High blood pressure happens in two ways, primary and secondary hypertension. The primary form of this condition happens gradually over years, and the secondary form is caused by an underlying condition.
You can find yourself dealing with hypertension for a variety of reasons, including obesity, inactivity, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, stress, and a diet with too much sodium and too little potassium. Your risk of high blood pressure increases with age; the condition may run in your family; and African Americans are more likely to develop it earlier than other races.
Often, this condition has no symptoms, which makes it more dangerous as it can do damage to your heart, arteries, and other organs without you even knowing it. Rarely, severe hypertension can present with sweating, anxiety, blushing, and problems sleeping.
In cases of hypertensive crisis (where your blood pressure is unusually high), you may also experience headaches and nosebleeds.
Left untreated over time, high blood pressure can lead to atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries) which happens when plaque develops on the walls of your arteries, making it harder for blood to travel through.
This can cause heart attacks, heart failure, aneurysm, kidney failure, stroke, and hypertensive retinopathies (which can cause blindness).
High blood pressure is both preventable and treatable, and some basic steps you can take to keep it under control include eating a heart healthy diet (less salt, more fruits and vegetables), exercising regularly, losing weight, limiting alcohol, and stopping the use of tobacco products.
Medications can be prescribed if these changes aren’t enough to keep your blood pressure in check.
High blood pressure can be dangerous to your health, but it is manageable, and we can help you get it under control. Make an appointment with Dr. Veiseh today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.