Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects many people. It is a common but dangerous condition where the force of blood against the walls of your arteries is too high. A normal reading is typically around 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury), while hypertension is diagnosed when the blood pressure reading is consistently above 130/80 mmHg.
Causes of Hypertension
Many factors can cause hypertension. Lifestyle factors like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a diet high in fats and salt can cause it. Hypertension may also develop from conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Most people with hypertension experience no symptoms, which explains why the condition is often called the “silent killer.” Some people have symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and nosebleeds. However, these symptoms are not specific to hypertension and may result from other health conditions.
Diagnosis of Hypertension
The only way to diagnose hypertension is to check blood pressure regularly. A diagnosis of hypertension is typically made when a patient’s blood pressure readings are consistently above 130/80 mmHg.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A blood pressure reading has two numbers.
- Top number (systolic pressure) – The upper number measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.
- Bottom number (diastolic pressure) – The lower number measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.
Other tests may be necessary for the doctor to determine the underlying cause of hypertension or to rule out other medical conditions. The tests may include the following:
- Lab tests. Blood and urine tests check for conditions that can cause or worsen high blood pressure. For example, tests are done to check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. You may also have lab tests to check your kidney, liver, and thyroid function.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This quick and painless test measures the heart’s electrical activity. Attaching sensors called electrodes to the chest (and sometimes to the arms or legs) can reveal how fast or slow the heart is beating.
- Echocardiogram. This noninvasive exam uses sound waves to create detailed images of the beating heart. It shows how blood moves through the heart and heart valves.
Treatment of Hypertension
The goal of hypertension treatment is to maintain blood pressure within a normal range and reduce the risk of complications such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease. Lifestyle changes will typically be the first line of treatment, including losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and adopting a healthy diet low in salt and fats. A regular exercise routine can also help lower blood pressure.
If lifestyle changes alone are insufficient to lower your blood pressure, the doctor may prescribe medication to help control your hypertension. Several drugs, including diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers, can successfully treat hypertension when taken as prescribed.
Hypertension is a common medical condition that affects many people. If you have been diagnosed with it, following your doctor’s recommendations is essential for lowering your blood pressure and reducing the risk of complications.
To schedule an appointment with our Nephrology and Hypertension team for hypertension evaluation and management, please contact SMC Physicians today for your visit. Prioritizing regular check-ups is crucial for effective monitoring and treatment of your blood pressure.
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