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What is Hypertension and How is it Treated?

Signs of high blood pressure

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is a common condition that can affect men and women. If there is frequent force against your heart’s artery walls at a high level, this can result in hypertension or even more severe conditions.

The good news is: hypertension and high blood pressure is treatable, especially if caught early on. Checking your blood pressure on a regular basis is a great way to lower your risk of hypertension.

What are the symptoms?

While many people experience symptoms with hypertension and high blood pressure, others don’t notice any symptoms or changes in their body. That’s why seeing your doctor for regular check-ups is the best way to avoid any long-term irregularities in your blood pressure.

If you’ve been experiencing headaches, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, or dizziness, it’s important that you seek prompt medical attention. Hypertension symptoms typically present when the blood pressure has reached a severely high or fatal stage.

Who is at risk for hypertension?

Some of the risk factors for high blood pressure cannot be changed but it’s important to be aware of them. For example, hypertension can run in your family, so if your parents or other immediate family members have high blood pressure, there’s a chance that you might be prone to it as well.

Other hereditary and physical risk factors include:

Age: Unfortunately, getting older can put you at risk for hypertension. The older you get, the more prone you are to high blood pressure readings. When one ages, their blood vessels lose some of their elasticity, which can result in increased blood pressure. There are some instances where children can also develop hypertension. You’re never too young or too old for a blood pressure check at the doctor's office!

Race: In the United States, hypertension affects more African Americans than any other racial background.

Gender: Up until the age of 64, men are more prone to developing hypertension than their female counterparts. But at 65 and older, women are more likely to develop hypertension.

Kidney issues: If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, you may also be at risk of developing hypertension.

Can you prevent hypertension?

Even though it can run throughout your family tree and there are several physical factors that put you at risk, there are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of developing hypertension.

Exercise: Regularly participating in physical activity is a great way to keep your heart healthy. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, a weekend hike through the forest, aquasize class at the nearby pool, or a sweaty session at the gym. Staying active will reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure.

A healthy diet: Eating foods that are too high in fat and sodium can put you at risk of hypertension. Making healthy choices when it comes to eating is a simple and effective way to reduce your blood pressure. If you’re following a diet that’s high in sodium, this will cause your blood pressure to increase due to water retention. Adding more foods with potassium into your diet (like bananas!) is an easy way to keep your heart healthy. So next time you’re ordering pizza, be sure to add some vegetables and order a salad on the side.

It’s also important to avoid smoking cigarettes and consuming too much alcohol. Even though drinking a bottle of wine every weekend may feel like the right thing to do, it’s not what your heart needs. Swap wine for water and you’ll be feeling hydrated and healthy.

Maintaining a healthy weight: Carrying around excess weight is not only hard on your joints, it’s also very hard on your heart. If you’re overweight, your body requires more blood to deliver nutrients and oxygen to your issues. This means that your body will increase the amount of blood moving through your vessels, which will then increase the amount of pressure against your artery walls.

Try to stay stress-free: Stress can negatively impact so many of your body’s essential functions like your mental health, fertility, hair, skin, and nail growth, and even your blood pressure. Too much stress can cause your blood pressure to spike while also encouraging some unhealthy habits as many people lean on junk food and alcohol when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. When you’re feeling stressed out, it’s best to improve your mood through exercise, spending time with friends or family, and by getting lots of sleep.

How is hypertension treated?

Before a doctor prescribes medication, they will usually recommend making some lifestyle changes first to see if that has a difference on your blood pressure readings. But if maintaining a healthy weight, eating better, managing stress levels, and exercising regularly isn’t making a difference, they may prescribe medication. However, it’s incredibly important to continue on with these healthy habits while you take the medication.

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