Hypertension is a medical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood being pumped from your heart against your blood vessels. This process ensures nutrients and oxygen are delivered throughout your whole body. When the pressure in your vessels is too great, it can damage the vessels and cause health problems. If your blood pressure is not well controlled, it poses serious health risks such as stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, eye problems and erectile dysfunction in males.
Blood pressure is broken down into two measurements, your systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.
Systolic pressure (top number) measures the pressure in your vessels when your heart is actively contracting and pushing the blood out and to your extremities.
Diastolic pressure (bottom number) measures the pressure in your vessels when your heart is relaxed and filling with blood.
What do the numbers mean?
Typical blood pressure norm is approximately 120/80 but blood pressure varies greatly depending on your age, physical activity, and health circumstances.
For most people less than 140/90 is acceptable and for most people with diabetes less than 130/80 is acceptable.
How often should you get your blood pressure checked?
Even if you are healthy your blood pressure should be checked once a year with your primary care practitioner. Regular checkups help make sure that high blood pressure is diagnosed and controlled before it leads to serious health problems.
If you blood pressure is borderline, high or you have underlying medical conditions, your primary care practitioner may want to check your blood pressure more often in office, at home or order a 24hr blood pressure monitoring session.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension is referred to as the ‘silent killer’ as hypertension can have no warning signs or symptoms. Hypertensive crisis symptoms can include severe headache, shortness of breath, severe anxiety, and nosebleeds but these symptoms aren’t specific and usually do not occur until blood pressure is at a critical level.
Possible causes of hypertension
Factors that you cannot control that can attribute to hypertension include your age, ethnicity, and family history/genetics.
Lifestyle factors that you can control include dietary choices, smoking status, excessive alcohol, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and stress.
Ways to reduce your blood pressure or your chances of getting high blood pressure
1). Be physically active for 30-60 minutes 4 days a week. Try walking, biking, swimming, cross country skiing or any other physical activity that you enjoy. Any physical activity is better than no activity.
2). Choose vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains and lean meat, fish, and poultry more often. Limit fast foods, canned foods, or foods high in salt and sugar, saturated or trans fats.
3). Eat less sodium (Salt). In general, the more processed a food is, the higher the sodium content. Try not to add salt to your cooking and remove the saltshaker from your table.
4). Limit alcohol. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one or two standard drinks a day.
5). Manage your weight. If you are overweight, losing 10 pounds will lower your blood pressure.
6). Do not smoke. Smoking increases the risk of developing heart problems and other diseases.
7). Reduce stress with meditation, yoga, etc.
If you have already been diagnosed with hypertension and would like to learn more, please see these resources
Cold Lake Primary Care Network: In person 1:1 Hypertension Education appointment 780-639-0011
Alberta Healthy Living-Hypertension Education: Heart and Stroke Education | NZ AB Healthy Living (healthylivingprogram.ca)
Heart and Stroke Website: High blood pressure | Heart and Stroke Foundation
Alberta Healthy Living- Stress Management: Heart and Stroke Education | NZ AB Healthy Living (healthylivingprogram.ca)
Recommended Home Use BP Monitors: Blood Pressure Devices – Hypertension Canada | For Healthcare Professionals
Sodium in Diet: 2014_SaltAndSodiumGetTheFacts_EN_P1004 (gov.pe.ca)