Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a disease in which the pressure of your blood against your artery walls is excessively high. When this happens, it can damage your arteries, heart, and other organs in your body. In some cases, it can even lead to death. According to the CDC, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States has hypertension. If you have hypertension, it’s essential to get it under control through lifestyle changes and medication to avoid these serious health complications.
What Causes Hypertension?
Several things can contribute to hypertension, including obesity, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, stress, genetics, and a sedentary lifestyle. High salt intake can also cause hypertension by making your body retain fluid and making your heart work harder to pump blood.
How is Hypertension Diagnosed?
If you think you might have hypertension, the first step is to see your doctor for a physical exam. They will take your blood pressure using a device called a sphygmomanometer. This measures the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries. If your systolic blood pressure (the top number) is 140 mmHg or higher OR your diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) is 90 mmHg or higher, you have hypertension.
Your doctor may also order some tests to rule out other conditions causing your high blood pressure, such as kidney disease or thyroid problems. Once they’ve confirmed that you have hypertension, they will work with you to create a treatment plan.
Complications With Hypertension
Hypertension has its own set of complications. First and foremost, it can lead to diabetes.
This is another common disease in the United States. Essentially, it occurs when your blood sugar is too high. It’s a lifestyle disease, and it can be fatal.
The most common form of diabetes, and one that is caused by hypertension, is type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body can’t properly use insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. When this happens, the sugar stays in your blood instead of being used for energy by your cells.
Over time high blood sugar can damage your nerves, vessels, and organs. It can also lead to blindness.
Recent studies have shown a link between hypertension and tooth loss. In addition, the study found that people with hypertension were more likely to have periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease. The study also found that people with periodontitis were more likely to develop hypertension.
While the exact mechanism behind this link is unknown, it’s thought that inflammation caused by periodontitis might contribute to the development of hypertension. Visiting your local dentist can drastically reduce tooth loss due to hypertension. In addition, they can provide treatment options for you, including ways to manage your oral health when you have hypertension.
Hypertension is also a risk factor for dementia. Dementia is a general term for a decline in cognitive function. This can include memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with tasks that require mental concentration.
One study found that people with hypertension were more likely to develop dementia than people without hypertension. The study also found that the risk of dementia increased with blood pressure.
While the exact mechanism behind this link is unknown, it’s thought that hypertension damages small vessels in the brain, which leads to cognitive decline over time.
Lastly, hypertension is a significant risk factor for heart disease. It’s one of the leading causes of heart disease.
Heart disease is a general term for any condition that affects the heart. This can include heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. All of these conditions are serious and can be fatal.
To prevent heart disease, it’s essential to get your blood pressure under control. This can be done with lifestyle changes and medication.
How is Hypertension Treated?
You can do several things to lower your blood pressure if you have hypertension. First, you should start by making lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, losing weight if necessary, and quitting smoking. Sometimes, these lifestyle changes are enough to lower your blood pressure significantly. However, if these changes don’t help or if your blood pressure is extremely high, you may need medication in addition to lifestyle changes. The most common medications used to treat hypertension are diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).
Hypertension is a severe medical condition that affects millions of people in the United States alone. Left untreated can lead to life-threatening health complications like heart disease and stroke. However, there are things you can do to lower your risk of developing hypertension or manage it if you have already been diagnosed. Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to protect your health and improve your quality of life.