Blood Pressure: Causes & Treatment for Hypertension

Blood Pressure: Causes & Treatment for Hypertension

What is high blood pressure or hypertension and what causes it?

Blood pressure is a measure of how forcefully your blood pushes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body. Blood pressure reading is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is written as systolic pressure, the force of the blood against the artery walls as your heart beats, over diastolic pressure, the blood pressure between heartbeats. Blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 mmHg is considered high. Normal blood pressure is systolic pressure less than 120 and diastolic pressure less than 80 mmHg.

What causes high blood pressure?

You don’t have control over a family history of high blood pressure or the increase in blood pressure that comes with aging. There are, however, a variety of conditions, such as getting little or no exercise, poor diet, obesity, and smoking and drinking too much alcohol, that can contribute to the development of high blood pressure.

What health problems are associated with high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop. Left uncontrolled, you may wind up with a disability, a poor quality of life, or even a fatal heart attack. Several potential serious health conditions are linked to high blood pressure, including heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, and kidney disease.

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

Often there are no symptoms associated with high blood pressure, so you usually don’t feel it. A healthcare provider usually diagnoses high blood pressure during a routine check-up. If you have a close relative with hypertension or you have risk factors, it is important to pay attention to your blood pressure reading. If your blood pressure is unusually high, you may have chest pain, difficulty breathing, or strong headaches. If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek an evaluation immediately.

What is the treatment of high blood pressure?

Making lifestyle changes is one of the best ways to treat high blood pressure. If  necessary, drug therapy also exists. Lifestyle changes include losing weight, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, reducing the amount of salt in your diet, regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption, and seeking treatment for sleep apnea. Commonly prescribed drugs include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and alpha-blockers.

Are there any Weeks clinics that address high blood pressure?

Yes. There are free blood pressure screenings the second Friday of the month from 11 am to 2 pm at the Passumpsic Savings Bank on Main Street in Lancaster.

By John Ford, MD

Dr. Ford is a primary care physician based in the Lancaster Physicians Office. For more information or for an appointment, please call 603-788-5095.