About 75 million American adults (32%) have high blood pressure—that’s 1 in every 3 adults. Another 1 in 3 American adults has prehypertension—blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal—but not yet in the high blood pressure range.
Despite its prevalence, many people don’t understand exactly what high blood pressure is. Your blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, the vessels that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body.
It’s normal for your blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the days, but high blood pressure for an extended period of time can result in heart damage and other health problems.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is referred to as the “silent killer” because it often presents no warning signs or symptoms. The best way to know if you have hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings. Most doctors’ offices take a blood pressure reading at every appointment.
Once blood pressure reaches about 180/120 mm Hg, it becomes what is called a hypertensive crisis, which is a medical emergency.
At this stage, a person may experience a headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred or double vision, nosebleeds, heart palpitations, or breathlessness. Anybody who experiences these symptoms should see their doctor immediately.
Causes & Risk Factors
There are two types of hypertension–primary and secondary.
Primary hypertension is the most common type and develops over time with no identifiable cause. However, researchers have been able to identify several risk factors that may contribute including genetics, physical changes and lifestyle choices such as lack of physical activity and poor diet.
In contrast, secondary hypertension occurs quickly and tends to become more severe than primary. The most common causes of secondary hypertension include kidney disease, congenital heart defects, side effects of medications, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, adrenal gland problems, and thyroid problems.
Treatment & Prevention
If your doctor diagnoses you with primary hypertension, lifestyle changes may help reduce your high blood pressure. If lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough, or if they stop being effective, your doctor may prescribe medication.
Treatment for secondary hypertension starts with first treating the underlying condition.
Some of the medications used to treat hypertension include Beta-blockers, diuretics, ACE inhibitors, Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers and alpha-2 agonists.
You can help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, manage hypertension and reduce your risk of complications associated with it by developing a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and overall adopting a cleaner lifestyle.
Make an Appointment
The doctors, nurse practitioners, and staff at Durham Nephrology Associates are dedicated to providing quality care to patients in Durham and Oxford with kidney disease and high blood pressure. To make an appointment, call (919) 447-3005. Or you can request an appointment here.