It’s often called the “silent-killer” as most people don’t know that they have hypertension. In fact, about 70 million American adults have hypertension – that’s 1 in every 3 adults. Only about half (52%) of people have their condition under control. Although not all risk factors are in your control, there are steps you can take to prevent or control hypertension, commonly called high blood pressure.
Stephen Smalley, MD, HealthPartners Cardiologist at Regions Hospital and Hudson Hospital & Clinic shares answers to frequently asked questions about causes and treatments for hypertension.
What causes high blood pressure?
While the cause of high blood pressure in most people remains unclear, inactivity, poor diet, obesity, older age, and genetics – can all contribute to the development of hypertension.
What is systolic and diastolic blood pressure?
Systolic pressure is the force of the blood against the artery walls as your heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the blood pressure between heartbeats. (120/80 mmHg means the systolic pressure is 120 and the diastolic pressure is 80.)
What is a normal blood pressure?
The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure has classified blood pressure measurements into several categories:
- Normal blood pressure is systolic pressure less than 120 and diastolic pressure less than 80 mmHg.
- "Prehypertension" is systolic pressure of 120-139 or diastolic pressure of 80-89 mmHg.
- Stage 1 Hypertension is systolic pressure of 140-159 or diastolic pressure of 90-99 mmHg.
- Stage 2 Hypertension is systolic pressure of 160 or greater or diastolic pressure of 100 or greater.
What health problems are associated with high blood pressure?
Several potentially serious health conditions are linked to high blood pressure, including: Atherosclerosis, Heart Disease, Kidney Disease, Stroke and Eye Disease.
How do I know if I have high blood pressure?
High blood pressure often doesn't have any symptoms, so you usually don't feel it. So, hypertension is usually diagnosed by a health care professional during a routine checkup. If you have a close relative with hypertension, or other risk factors, it is especially important to pay attention to your blood pressure reading. If your blood pressure is extremely high, you may have unusually strong headaches, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or easily worn out by workouts. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.
What is the treatment for high blood pressure?
High blood pressure treatment usually involves making lifestyle changes and, if necessary, drug therapy. Lifestyle changes for high blood pressure include: losing weight, quit smoking, eat a healthy diet (more on that below), reduce salt, regular exercise, limit alcohol, and seek treatment for sleep apnea.
Commonly prescribed high blood pressure drugs include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and alpha-blockers (alpha-adrenergic antagonists). If you are over age 60, the goal of hypertension treatment is a systolic pressure of 150 and a diastolic pressure of 90. The goal of treatment is 140/90 for those under age 60.
What are the side effects of high blood pressure drugs?
As is true with any medication, high blood pressure drugs have side effects. Among the most common are the following: for diuretics, headache, weakness and low potassium; for ace inhibitors, dry persistent cough, diarrhea and high potassium; and for other blockers, dizziness and nausea.
What type of diet should I follow if I have high blood pressure?
A healthy diet, such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, is effective in helping to lower high blood pressure. The DASH diet calls for a certain number of daily servings from various food groups, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
When should I call my doctor about high blood pressure?
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, it's important to see your doctor on a regular basis. See your doctor if you aren’t responding to the prescribed treatment and your blood pressure is still high, or if you are having any side effects from the medication.
Are there any drugs that cause high blood pressure?
Some drugs that you take for another condition may increase blood pressure. These include amphetamines, methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin), corticosteroids, hormones (including birth control pills), certain migraine medications, cyclosporine, and erythropoietin. Also, many over-the-counter medications that contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine (for example, allergy and cold medicines and appetite suppressants) can increase blood pressure. Don't stop taking any prescribed medication, including high blood pressure drugs, without talking to your doctor.