Man measuring blood pressure

Understanding the dangers of high blood pressure

Is your blood pressure up to no good? Then it’s time to take control of this very pressing problem. More than 100 million Americans are dealing with this serious condition that tends to occur more frequently as you age, yet often first develops in your late 30s or early 40s. This common condition is a major concern because some of the side effects of high blood pressure can increase the risk of getting many serious health conditions. This is why it’s important to understand why high blood pressure is such a threat and how you can protect yourself and your health. Get the lowdown on the high blood pressure dangers, along with the causes of high blood pressure, and the high blood pressure symptoms you need to monitor. Additionally, the following tips on preventing and treating the problem can help bring your risks of high blood pressure down.

What’s up with high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is a serious health condition where the blood pressure in your arteries is higher than normal. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure forces your heart to work harder and less efficiently to pump blood throughout your body. Each time your heart beats, it produces pressure that pushes blood into your arteries. Then, your arteries carry that blood to other parts of your body. When your blood pressure is consistently too high, the force of blood against your artery walls can damage and narrow the delicate arteries. While it’s normal and natural for your blood pressure to rise and fall during the day, having your blood pressure levels continually above normal can cause you to develop high blood pressure. Dangers of the condition include several serious health problems, with heart disease, heart attack, and stroke being the most serious risks of high blood pressure.

Causes of high blood pressure

High blood pressure usually develops gradually over many years and the causes of high blood pressure aren’t always clear. Sometimes it occurs because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a poor diet or a lack of regular exercise. Other times, your genes determine your fate if you are genetically predisposed to developing the condition. And occasionally, high blood pressure is the result of an underlying disease like congenital heart problems, kidney disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and thyroid problems.

Vital signs and symptoms

Early detection is very important, but it’s not always possible with high blood pressure. Most serious health conditions come with noticeable symptoms, whereas high blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because there are often no signs. As a result, you may not know that yours is too high. Some people with the condition may experience subtle symptoms, such as headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, dizziness, facial flushing, or chest pain. But, these high blood pressure symptoms are very vague and typically don’t occur until your blood pressure has reached dangerously high levels. In most cases, the only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis.

Life-saving tips for prevention

If your blood pressure is too high, your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor may first recommend making some simple lifestyle changes to bring your blood pressure down to normal levels. The following changes can help decrease your risk of high blood pressure or help you manage the condition:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Lower your salt intake
  • Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week
  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if needed
  • Don’t smoke
  • Reduce your alcohol intake
  • Learn ways to manage stress

Taking treatment to heart

Along with making healthy lifestyle choices, certain medications may be recommended to help you manage your blood pressure. The medicines prescribed will be based on your health and your blood pressure levels. These treatments work in several ways, such as by relaxing your blood vessels or making your heart beat with less force. You may need to try different combinations of medications to find the doses that work for you. There are rarely any side effects of high blood pressure medications, but sometimes they can cause dizziness, headaches, or swollen legs. Discuss the benefits and risks of high blood pressure medications with your doctor to help you make healthy decisions.