High blood pressure is also called hypertension. To understand what hypertension is, we first look at the meaning of blood pressure (hydrostatic pressure) itself. The heart is a muscle that pumps blood through blood vessels. This happens at a rate of 60 to 80 times per minute. The blood is pressed against the walls of the blood vessels with a certain force, this is called blood pressure. When the heart contracts, there is more pressure on the vessel walls, this is called the upper pressure. After a contraction of the heart, the heart muscle relaxes and the pressure on the vessel walls decreases: this is called lower pressure.
Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day; values are often lower in the morning and evening. The pressure on the vessel walls increases during exercise or emotions. The hydrostatic pressure is too high when it exceeds 140/90 mmhg. An upper limit of 160 mmhg applies to people over the age of 60. With high blood pressure, the primary focus is on the upper pressure.
Causes of high blood pressure
Rarely does hypertension have an obvious cause. Certain factors such as being overweight, eating a lot of salt, taking certain medications and stress increase the risk of high blood pressure. Kidney inflammation, narrowing of the aorta, or a kidney defect can also cause hypertension. In addition, high blood pressure is more commonly seen in diabetic patients and pregnant women.
Symptoms and consequences of high blood pressure
High blood pressure produces few symptoms, so patients may already have it for a while. Only a seriously high blood pressure produces symptoms such as dizziness, headache and shortness of breath.
Despite the fact that symptoms are absent for a long time, high blood pressure is harmful to the heart and blood vessels. The walls of the blood vessels are damaged over time, which is known as arteriosclerosis. Narrowing of the blood vessels places a heavier strain on the heart. As a result of high blood pressure, kidney disease, retinal damage and cardiovascular disease can occur. These include the life-threatening heart attack and stroke.
Measuring blood pressure yourself
People dealing with any of the risk factors would be wise to check their blood pressure regularly. This includes patients with cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis or elevated cholesterol levels. Sometimes the family doctor recommends that you measure the pressure yourself and then share the values.
A blood pressure monitor makes it possible to measure blood pressure at home. The advantage of this is that the blood pressure monitor is used during different times of the day. This gives a clearer picture of the average hydrostatic pressure. The blood pressure monitor measures via the wrist or with a cuff around the upper arm. The upper arm blood pressure monitor is the most reliable, with a wrist blood pressure monitor it is important not to move while measuring.
Treatment of hypertension
A healthy lifestyle can reduce hypertension. Quitting smoking is an important measure, and adequate exercise and a healthy body weight also contribute. Blood pressure-lowering drugs are used for severely high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease in combination with hypertension.