Diseases of the Aorta
What is Congestive Hypertension?
Hypertension is a serious medical condition where blood pressure levels are consistently elevated. Blood pressure is measured in two numbers - systolic pressure (top number) and diastolic pressure (bottom number). Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg. Hypertension is diagnosed when:
- Systolic pressure is 130 mmHg or higher
- Diastolic pressure is 80 mmHg or higher
When elevated over time, hypertension stresses the cardiovascular system. Left unchecked, it can damage blood vessels, organs, and lead to severe complications like stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. About 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have hypertension, many without realizing it. Once detected, hypertension can be effectively managed through lifestyle changes and medication.
Causes & Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension is a multifaceted condition with a range of contributing factors. It is often called the "silent killer" because it typically does not manifest obvious symptoms in its early stages. This makes routine blood pressure monitoring crucial, as high blood pressure can quietly damage organs without you realizing it. Nevertheless, in more advanced cases, individuals may experience some symptoms.
Causes of Hypertension
Family history of hypertension can increase your risk of developing the condition. Genetic predisposition can influence how your body regulates blood pressure.
- Unhealthy Diet
Diets high in sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol can lead to hypertension. Excessive salt intake can cause your body to retain more fluid, increasing blood pressure.
- Physical Inactivity
Lack of regular physical activity contributes to weight gain and weakens the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of hypertension.
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Heavy alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure and damage blood vessels.
- Chronic Stress
Prolonged stress can lead to increased production of stress hormones, constricting blood vessels and elevating blood pressure.
- Underlying Medical Conditions
Conditions like kidney disease, thyroid disorders, and sleep apnea can disrupt the body's blood pressure regulation mechanisms.
As you age, the risk of hypertension increases due to changes in blood vessel elasticity and hormonal changes.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Severe headaches, particularly in the morning, can be an indicator of high blood pressure.
- Shortness of Breath
Difficulty breathing and a feeling of breathlessness can occur due to the heart working harder to pump blood.
Spontaneous or frequent nosebleeds can sometimes be associated with high blood pressure, although they are not exclusive to the condition.
Lightheadedness or dizziness may result from compromised blood flow to the brain.
- Chest Pain
Chest pain or discomfort can be a sign of severe hypertension, potentially indicating damage to the heart or blood vessels.
Testing & Diagnosis for Hypertension
The cornerstone of diagnosing hypertension lies in accurate and consistent blood pressure measurements. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is presented as two numbers: systolic pressure (the higher number) and diastolic pressure (the lower number). The systolic pressure represents the force exerted by the heart when it contracts, while diastolic pressure reflects the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.
Regular blood pressure monitoring, in conjunction with medical assessments and tests, ensures an informed and effective approach to managing hypertension and mitigating its potential risks.
Blood Pressure Categories
Below 120/80 mm Hg
120-129/less than 80 mm Hg
- Hypertension Stage 1
130-139/80-89 mm Hg
- Hypertension Stage 2
140 or higher/90 or higher mm Hg
- Hypertensive Crisis
Higher than 180/higher than 120 mm Hg
Diagnostic Tests for Hypertension
- Urine test
This test can check for kidney disease or diabetes, which are both risk factors for hypertension.
- Lipid profile
This test can check your cholesterol levels, which are also a risk factor for hypertension.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
This test can check your heart's electrical activity for signs of damage or disease.
This test uses sound waves to create images of your heart to check for damage or disease.
The goal of hypertension treatment is to lower blood pressure to a safe level and reduce the risk of developing serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Treatment for hypertension usually includes a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
- Healthy Diet
Adopting a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy while minimizing sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars.
- Physical Activity
Engaging in regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, helps improve cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure.
- Weight Management
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the strain on the heart and blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure.
- Limiting Alcohol
Moderating alcohol consumption or eliminating it altogether can help lower blood pressure.
- Stress Management
Practices like meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and mindfulness can help manage stress, ultimately contributing to blood pressure control.
These medications help the body eliminate excess sodium and water, reducing blood volume and consequently lowering blood pressure.
- Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors
ACE inhibitors relax blood vessels by blocking the production of a hormone that narrows them.
- Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)
- ARBs block the effects of angiotensin II, a hormone that narrows blood vessels.
- Calcium Channel Blockers
These medications relax and widen blood vessels by preventing calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessels.
- Beta Blockers
Beta blockers slow the heart rate and reduce the force of its contractions, leading to lower blood pressure.