It’s safe to assume that most people know someone who has high blood pressure because the reality is that it’s quite prominent in the United States. Studies estimated that approximately 1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure, with most people having no idea. This is quite worrisome, as untreated high blood pressure can lead to many serious health conditions, including heart disease and stroke. Both of these are leading causes of death in the U.S. The unfortunate thing is that many people mistaken symptoms of high blood pressure as something else and never actually seek or receive a proper diagnosis. And of those who do, many doctors send you home with a prescription medication to manage your symptoms, and a ‘good luck’. This is quite strange considering how detrimental (and fatal) this health condition can be and the fact that it can be managed naturally and without the long list of potential side effects that are associated with prescription medication. So, whether you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure or have already been diagnosed, we cover everything there is to know about this health condition so you can start the healing process.
The 101 on High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can easily be summed up as a health condition where your blood pressure (the force of blood flowing through your vessels) is consistently higher than what is considered normal and healthy. It’s also referred to as hypertension and affects nearly half of American adults, with many people having no idea that they have it.
But what is considered normal? Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps throughout the body and the comparison of the amount of resistance to the blood flow to your arteries. Here is a quick breakdown of what ‘normal blood pressure’ for most adults looks like:
- Systolic Pressure: Less than 120
- Diastolic pressure: Less than 80
How to Check Your Blood Pressure
The easiest way to determine if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked. This can be done in a variety of ways, from using a machine you can purchase online or find at your local pharmacy to visiting the doctors.
Here’s an informative video on how to correctly measure your blood pressure with a machine.
Keep in mind, that you can have high blood pressure one day and still not have high blood pressure. The diagnosis comes with your blood pressure being consistently high. If you do notice consistently high results, do take a proper blood pressure test via a device, doctor or machine to get the specific numbers for the different categories.
And there’s also a possibility of white coat hypertension – a phenomenon where your blood pressure levels go up temporarily in a doctor’s room due to anxiety.
What to Look For in a Blood Pressure Reading
Now that you know how to check your blood pressure, it’s important to know what to look for or how to properly assess your results because, at first glance, the different numbers and wording can be quite confusing.
As per the latest health guidelines, the categories for blood pressure levels are as follows:
- Normal levels: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
- Elevated levels: systolic levels between 120-129 and diastolic levels less than 80 (likely to develop high blood pressure if actions aren’t taken)
- Stage 1 levels: systolic levels between 130-139 or diastolic levels between 80-89 (lifestyle changes and possible medication gets prescribed)
- Stage 2 levels: systolic levels at least 140 or diastolic levels at least 90 mm Hg (likely to receive a combination of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes)
- Hypertensive crisis levels: systolic levels over 180 and/or diastolic levels over 120 (need for immediate medical attention)
These may look confusing to you at first, but once you compare your numbers to the data here, you’ll be able to determine the level and seriousness of your blood pressure. And if you are experiencing hypertensive crisis levels, seek immediate treatment at the hospital.
Understanding blood pressure levels
High blood pressure is also known as a silent killer, as it rarely produces obvious symptoms. So, it’s imperative to get a proper reading (and understanding of such) or you may never know that you are dealing with this dangerous health condition. But the numbers and terminology can be confusing at first. The most important thing to know is the differences between systolic and diastolic pressure.
- Systolic blood pressure (the first or ‘top’ number): This number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when your heart beats
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second or ‘bottom’ number): This number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while your heart is resting
Possible Complications of High Blood Pressure
If being known as “a silent killer” isn’t enough to convince you that high blood pressure is a very serious condition, perhaps a list of other possible complications will. As mentioned previously, untreated hypertension has been known to cause heart disease and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death in the United States. Now, the longer your high blood pressure goes untreated, the higher the build-up of excessive pressure on your artery walls will be. This is why it’s imperative to get proper treatment for hypertension as soon as you notice you’re experiencing it.
The more pressure that’s placed on your artery walls, the higher your risk of experiencing potential complications is. This includes damage to your blood vessels and organs, including damage to your heart, brain, kidneys, arteries, sexual function, eyes, and many others. This damage can then lead to life-threatening complications, such as:
- Aneurysms: When your blood vessels weaken and bulge, resulting in an aneurysm – a life-threatening issue if it ruptures
- Dementia: When narrowed or blocked arteries limit blood flow to the brain, this can result in a certain type of dementia called vascular dementia, which produces changes to memory, thinking and behaviour
- Difficulties with memory: Uncontrolled high blood pressure can affect your ability to think, remember and learn
- Eye problems: Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes can cause issues, including blindness
- Heart attack or stroke: High blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries and can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke
- Heart failure: When the heart is unable to pump enough blood due to high pressure, this can lead to heart failure
- Metabolic syndrome: Increased risk of disorders relating to your body’s metabolism that can also make you more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and stroke, increased weight, high triglycerides, decreased HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), high blood pressure and high insulin levels
- Sexual health declines: High blood pressure can affect your sex life and sexual desire, as the decreased blood flow makes it difficult to achieve and maintain erections
- Weakened blood vessels in your kidneys: This prevents your kidneys from functioning normally, which can lead to many serious complications
Improving Blood Pressure Naturally
As terrifying as hypertension can be, it can be addressed and managed quickly, effectively and naturally. For example, with a few simple adjustments to your diet, lifestyle and physical activity levels, you can bring your blood pressure down to healthier levels to immediately decrease your risk of complications. But the changes are not a one-hit-wonder. You must keep up with them to continue to maintain healthy blood pressure levels, which is why it’s crucial to find healing tips and regimes that are practical and sustainable. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Losing excess weight is the most effective lifestyle change for controlling blood pressure
- Exercising regularly can significantly lower your blood pressure (aim to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day).
- Eat a clean, healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products (also known as the DASH diet) to lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg.
- Keep a food diary to narrow in on unhealthy habits affecting your blood pressure
- Increase potassium intake to reduce the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Potassium can be found in foods, such as fruits and vegetables, or in supplement form.
- Read the food labels to see what you’re actually eating and putting into your body (and avoid the unhealthy stuff)
- Reduce the sodium in your diet (even a small reduction can improve your blood pressure and heart health)
- Eliminate processed foods from your diet
- Quitting alcohol and smoking can significantly improve your blood pressure levels
- Manage your stress to lower your risk of developing chronic stress, which can contribute to high blood pressure
- Use an online blood pressure program to learn how to reduce your blood pressure and improve your heart health quickly and naturally. We recommend The Blood Pressure Program.
What you don’t know about high blood pressure could hurt you. Known as a silent killer, high blood pressure rarely presents physical symptoms, causing it to go unnoticed. Unfortunately, untreated high blood pressure can lead to serious health complications and even death. The good news is that, if you get on top of your hypertension now, you can start healing and reducing (and even eliminating) the potential risks using the tips provided in this article.