Hypertension has become so widespread that people often forget how serious the condition really is.
In the United States alone, 70 million adults suffer from the condition. This is equal to roughly 40% of adults over the age of 25.
The number of people living with high blood pressure is predicted to reach 1.56 billion worldwide by the year 2025.
Additionally, hypertension is responsible for up to 50% of deaths from heart disease and stroke and is a direct cause of kidney disease and kidney failure.
What Is Hypertension ?
The condition occurs when the force of the blood pumping through your arteries is too strong.
Short-term, it’s a normal sign of stress, exertion or illness. However, long-term, it can put a lot of strain on your blood vessels and heart, becoming potentially fatal (3).
Age, race, family history, weight, diet and habits can all play a role in the development of the condition, but the most common cause is the buildup of arterial plaque cause by a high-fat and high-sodium diet.
Other causes include(4):
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Kidney problems
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Thyroid problems
- Certain defects in blood vessels you’re born with (congenital)
- Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
- Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
- Alcohol abuse or chronic alcohol use
Over time, hypertension can lead to serious medical conditions such as (5) :
- chronic heart failure
- metabolic syndrome
- eye problems
- heart attack
- memory issues
Early Warning Signs of Hypertension
Often times, people with high blood pressure experience no clear-cut symptoms until the condition has reached a severe or life-threatening stage, even when their blood pressure readings reach excessively high levels.
Unfortunately, the most common symptoms are easily mistaken from other conditions and just plain aging. These include:
- chest pains
- irregular heartbeat
- vision issues
- ear buzzing
More obvious symptoms, like headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping and facial flushing, can actually indicate hypertensive crisis, a severe and sometimes fatal manifestation of the disease (6).
Low Blood Pressure Isn’t Much Better
Low blood pressure may be more rare, but it’s certainly not any healthier. Over time, it can rob the brain, organs and tissues from life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients. The condition is typically caused by old age, inactivity and lack of exercise (7).
Worse of all low blood pressure can often occur without presenting obvious symptoms. Many sufferers don’t even think of measuring their blood pressure and their body is slowly starved and begins to breakdown.
Common symptoms include (8):
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting (syncope)
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred vision
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
How To Measure Blood Pressure
Since its symptoms can be hard to recognize, the easiest way to diagnose hypertension is to regularly measure your blood pressure at your doctor’s office and at home. This is especially important for people with a family history of the condition or who live an unhealthy lifestyle.
Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries (9).
Here are the guideline set by the National Institute of Health to determine your condition (10):
- Normal: Lower than 120/80
- Prehypertension: 120–139/80–89
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140–159/90–99
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above/100 and above
How To Manage High Blood Pressure
Commonly prescribed medication is used to treat the symptoms of hypertension, but often do little to treat the cause. Because the condition is often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, a healthy diet and regular exercise can effectively prevent and treat high blood pressure.
It’s important to make sure to get plenty of fiber, magnesium, calcium and potassium, folic acid and Omega-3 fatty acids, which can all help reverse the disease and promote cardiovascular health (11).
Lastly, hypertensive patients should avoid avoid sugar, trans fats, high sodium foods, caffeine, stress, inactivity, alcohol and cigarettes, which are all known to contribute to high blood pressure (12).