Hypertension, better known as high blood pressure, is a condition that affects nearly half of the U.S. population, according to the CDC. Blood pressure is a measurement of the amount of pressure that a person’s blood exerts on the arteries. Blood pressure that is too high can lead to dangerous conditions such as a heart attack or stroke and can also cause a myriad of other problems. Fortunately, hypertension is a condition that can generally be managed. Read to learn more about identifying and managing hypertension.
Hypertension generally develops slowly, often over the course of months or years, and because there are often no symptoms this condition is often referred to as the “silent killer”. Early detection is critical to preventing the most serious effects of hypertension. Sometimes this condition is detected during a routine physical. At other times, it may be spotted while other medical tests are being run and a medical professional notices a pattern of high readings. If the condition progresses undiagnosed, the following symptoms may start to present:
- Frequent headaches.
- Shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Flushing or blurry vision.
- Blood in the urine.
People experiencing these symptoms are urged to visit a medical professional right away to either rule out or confirm hypertension. If hypertension is detected or suspected, patients are generally advised to purchase a home blood pressure monitor, start checking their blood pressure daily and keep their doctor informed about the readings.
Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home
Home blood pressure monitors are widely available in drugstores and pharmacies. Different models can vary greatly in price, but health insurance will often cover all or part of the cost. Here are some tips from Harvard Medical School for selecting a home blood pressure monitor:
- For the most precision, choose a monitor that goes around the upper arm, rather than the wrist or fingers.
- Select an automated monitor with a self-inflating cuff.
- For the most accurate readings, ensure the cuff is properly sized for the arm and is not too big or too small.
- Select a unit that shows both the blood pressure reading as well as pulse rate.
- Opt for a monitor with a large, bright digital readout that is easy to see.
Understanding Blood Pressure Readings
A blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers (e.g. 110/70). The systolic pressure is the top number, and it indicates the level of pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and pumps out blood. The bottom number, called diastolic pressure, indicates the level of pressure in the arteries between individual beats of the heart. The list below characterizes different levels of hypertension:
- Elevated: The systolic number is between 120-129 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury), and the diastolic number is less than 80 mm Hg. Generally, people with blood pressure in the elevated range are not put on medication but are encouraged to take blood pressure readings regularly and make lifestyle changes.
- Stage 1 hypertension: The systolic number is between 130-139 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is between 80-89 mm Hg. People in the stage 1 range may be put on medication in order to regulate their blood pressure.
- Stage 2 hypertension: The systolic number is 140 mm Hg or higher, or the diastolic number is 90 mm Hg or higher.
- Hypertensive crisis: The systolic number is over 180 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is over 120 mm Hg. This requires urgent medical attention. Those with blood pressure readings within this range should seek medical attention immediately.
Thankfully, many treatments are available for high blood pressure. Diuretics, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors are just some of the medication classes available to treat this condition. A doctor will recommend the best course of treatment based on a patient’s individual health profile and other medications he or she may be taking. In addition to medication, there are several lifestyle changes that can be very effective for bringing numbers down. Here are some tips for managing hypertension:
- Exercise daily. Staying physically active can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
- Take an active role in reducing stress. Meditation, participating in a calming activity, taking a yoga class or a nature walk can all be helpful for reducing stress.
- Reduce salt in the diet and eat healthy, balanced meals.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight places a strain on the body and increases the risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Ask about vitamin supplements. Research has shown that some supplements (e.g. vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, CoQ10, acetyl-L-carnitine) can be beneficial for helping to control blood pressure. Speak with a medical professional before taking any supplements or medication.
- Purchase a blood pressure monitor and take daily readings. Keep a diary of blood pressure readings or track them with an app.
Hypertension is a chronic disease, but working with a medical professional and making healthy lifestyle choices can be very helpful for controlling this condition. Lighthouse Senior Living has an entire team of certified and licensed healthcare professionals devoted to the well-being of our residents. Contact us today to schedule a virtual tour and learn more about our holistic approach to fitness, diet and lifestyle.