High Blood Pressure

By Margaret Adams

According to the American Heart Association, High Blood Pressure (HBP) or hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated.

Blood pressure is the force of blood flowing through the blood vessels in your body. High blood pressure damages the blood vessels in your body. This damage from high blood pressure can cause stroke, heart failure, heart attacks, kidney failure (which leads to dialysis), loss of vision, sexual dysfunction, and DEATH.

High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because people may not be aware of its symptoms. Serious symptoms, some that may cause a stroke, are headache, blurred vision, anxiety, shortness of breath, numbness on one side, drooping mouth or eyelids, and slurred speech. Seek Medical Attention Immediately if you have these symptoms.

It is advisable for people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure to have a home blood pressure kit and take their blood pressure regularly or as frequently as advised by their doctor. Most insurance plans may pay for all or part of the cost of a home blood pressure kit. Many times, community health fairs offer free blood pressure checks to the public, so take advantage of them and other opportunities to get your blood pressure checked.

Below are the blood pressure readings recommended by the American Heart Association: The top number is your SYSTOLIC number and the bottom number is your DIASTOLIC.

A normal range is 120/80 or lower, elevated is 120-129/80 or less, stage1 hypertension is 130-139/80-89, stage 2 is 140/90 or higher, a CRITICAL blood pressure reading of 180/120 requires immediate attention.

Causes of High Blood pressure include genetics (heredity), STRESS, being over the age of 40, salt intake or salt sensitivity, SMOKING, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, and being overweight or obese. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), men (47%) are more affected than women (43%) and Blacks (54%) are more affected than Whites (46%), Latinos/Hispanics 36%, and Asians 39%.

Treatment of HBP should be a collaboration between the patient and their doctors. Make sure you understand why you are taking your medication and its side effects.

Here is a brief description of medications used to treat HBP:

  • Diuretics (i.e. thiazides) used to decrease sodium and fluid.
  • Angiotensin ll receptor blockers (ARBS) (i.e.  Losartan) help relax the blood vessels.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ace inhibitors) (i.e. Lisinopril) widens the blood vessels.
  • Beta-Blockers (i.e. Atenolol) reduces the heart rate.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers (i.e. Amlodipine) reduces the amount of calcium entering the heart muscle which reduces the heart rate.
  • Alpha-Blockers (i.e. Doxazosin) relaxes the heart muscles arteries and veins.
  • Renin Inhibitors (i.e. Aliskiren) inhibits the enzyme that favors angiotensin production which constricts blood vessels.

Children should also have their blood pressures taken routinely also. Their numbers are based on age, height, and weight.