High Blood Pressure: It Doesn’t Happen Overnight
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition that commonly affects many individuals throughout their adult lives. Patients may live with high blood pressure for several years without exhibiting any obvious symptoms. However, individuals with high blood pressure who do not experience the condition’s most common symptoms can still incur significant damage to the heart and blood vessels over time. If left unaddressed, high blood pressure can elevate a patient’s risk of encountering more serious medical conditions or events, particularly heart attack and stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic, “high blood pressure generally develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually.” Nevertheless, high blood pressure can be easily detected by medical professionals, as well as controlled with the help of prescription medication and/or positive lifestyle changes such as improved diet or moderate regular exercise.
What is High Blood Pressure?
It is a condition that typically develops over the course of many years. In patients with hypertension, the prolonged pressure of blood flow against the artery walls is excessive enough that it may contribute to heart disease or other heart health issues. One’s blood pressure is discerned by the quantity of blood pumped by the heart, as well as the level of resistance the arteries exhibit to blood flow. Thus, when the heart pumps more blood, the arteries consequently become more narrow, increasing resistance and, in turn, raising an individual’s blood pressure.
What are the Symptoms of Hypertension?
Most typically a “silent” condition, many patients dealing with hypertension do not experience any pronounced symptoms. Moreover, “it may take years or even decades for the condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become obvious.” Some symptoms of more aggressive cases of high blood pressure are nosebleeds, shortness of breath, chest pain, flushing, blurred/impaired vision, heart palpitations, headaches, blood in urine, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. The challenge is that these symptoms are commonly chalked up as signs of different health problems. However, it is crucial that individuals who suffer from any of these symptoms seek out medical attention. These symptoms can actually be signs of advanced hypertension or an indication that it has progressed to an acute or lethal stage.
What Might Cause High Blood Pressure?
Unbeknownst to many, there are, in fact, two different types of high blood pressure. And each type has its unique causes.
Primary (or Essential) Hypertension
Primary hypertension, or essential hypertension, develops over the course of many years, sometimes decades. It is nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of primary hypertension, as there are several factors that can contribute to it. Many patients are genetically predisposed to develop primary hypertension due to inherited gene mutations or abnormalities. In addition, physical changes within the body, like shifts in kidney function as a result of age or unhealthy weight fluctuations, may trigger an increase in blood pressure. Furthermore, environmental factors like inadequate exercise and poor eating habits can cause patients to become overweight or obese, potentially increasing their risk of hypertension. Incidentally, primary hypertension is the most common form of high blood pressure.
On the other hand, secondary hypertension generally occurs rapidly, likely becoming a more critical condition and resulting in higher blood pressure than primary hypertension. Although not as common as primary hypertension, this type of hypertension is brought on by additional medical problems, such as adrenal gland tumors, congenital heart defects, chronic use/abuse of alcohol, kidney disease, illegal drug use, thyroid problems, medication side effects, obstructive sleep apnea, etc.
How Can Patients Prevent or Address Hypertension?
Patients who are at risk of developing hypertension can begin making strides today to reduce their risk levels, helping to avoid high blood pressure and the health problems that tend to follow it, particularly damage to the arteries, brain, and heart. An easy method is to introduce more nutritious foods into your diet. Individuals are encouraged to work their way up to integrating ten fruits and vegetables, specifically heart-healthy greens, into their daily diets. Moreover, cutting down on red meat and packaged, sugar-sweetened foods is highly advised. To reduce their risk of hypertension, overweight and obese patients are urged to set attainable weight loss goals that easily and comfortably fit into their daily routine.
However, the most effective way to avoid hypertension and any potential accompanying health conditions is to catch it as early as possible. And the first step to achieving this is through regularly monitoring blood pressure under the advisement and assistance of a medical professional. More often than not, individuals have their blood pressure taken as part of their annual physical examinations with their primary care physician. From age 18 on, patients should request a blood pressure reading every two years at the bare minimum. Patients over 40 years of age, or high-risk patients between the ages of 18 and 39, are advised to request an annual blood pressure reading from their doctors. But individuals who have already been diagnosed with hypertension or those at particularly high risk of developed additional cardiovascular diseases should have more frequent blood pressure readings. Patients can also monitor their blood pressure through the use of at-home blood pressure cuffs, as well as public blood pressure machines — most typically found in pharmacies. Still, these methods do have their drawbacks. Accurate blood pressure readings are heavily reliant on appropriate fitting cuffs and the proper manning of machines.
Get Ahead of Hypertension with Avicenna Cardiology
Primary hypertension is typically a silent condition that develops over the course of several years — even decades — and that seemingly surfaces out of nowhere. There are several environmental, genetic, and physical factors that can contribute to hypertension. Individuals looking to avoid or address hypertension, whether that means setting attainable weight loss goals, integrating more fruits and vegetables into their daily diets, or even implementing prescription medication, should not do it all on their own. With an immense wealth of knowledge on the multitude of approaches to reducing hypertension, Dr. Beheshtian is an interventional cardiologist who has treated thousands of patients in New York and elsewhere. She is extremely well-informed and experienced regarding treatment paths for various types of cases, mild or complex, and will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your health profile.