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High Blood Pressure FAQs

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is when your heart has to work extra hard to pump blood through your body because arteries are narrower or more constricted than they should be.

What causes it?

High blood pressure is divided into two types depending on the causes. If there is no specific cause associated with an increase in blood pressure it is known as primary hypertension, while if an increase in blood pressure can be traced back to a specific medical condition, it is known as secondary hypertension. Secondary hypertension can develop as a result of hormonal disorders, kidney disease, pain killers, contraceptive use, diabetes or autoimmune disease. There are, however, primary hypertension risk factors, such as smoking, stress, obesity, lack of exercise, alcohol use and diet.

Who is most at risk of developing high blood pressure?

Hypertension is often associated with age, so it is especially important that you get your blood pressure checked regularly and that you try and live as healthily as possible. People who are of African and Caribbean decent and those who are overweight, don't tend to exercise and have a diet with a high salt content also fall under a higher risk group for hypertension.

How dangerous is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can be very dangerous if left untreated and can lead to cardiovascular disease such as stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, embolism and eye problems. All these conditions can potentially be avoided if treatment is started soon enough

How will I know I have it?

Most people aren't aware they have high blood pressure until it has been measured by a doctor and this is why it is also known as the 'silent killer'. The most likely symptoms associated with high blood pressure are blurred vision, headaches, nosebleeds and shortness of breath. However, even if you aren't experiencing symptoms, it is important to go to your doctor to have your blood pressure measured. If your doctor finds that your blood pressure is higher than it should be, he may ask you to come back a couple of times or ask you to take your blood pressure at home, in order to establish whether you actually have high blood pressure and it is not being caused by the fact that you are nervous because you are visiting your doctor. This is known as white coat syndrome.

When is blood pressure considered to be high?

Ideally your blood pressure should be 120/80mmHg, however it is also considered normal if it is at 130/80mmHG. If your blood pressure measures at 140/90mmHG or higher, then a doctor may choose to do further tests or start you on a course of treatment.

Is high blood pressure hereditary?

Yes, people who have family members with high blood pressure do tend to be more likely to develop the condition and it is therefore considered one of the risk factors associated with primary hypertension.

Can it be prevented?

Although it is no guarantee that you won't develop high blood pressure, making sure that you live healthily and exercise regularly can help keep your blood pressure at a normal level. Avoiding medications that are likely to cause high blood pressure may also be helpful. Sometimes treating a condition that is responsible for causing high blood pressure can also reduce your risk of developing it.

Can it be treated?

Blood pressure can be treated with the help of lifestyle management as well as prescription medications. However, which method is recommended will depend on how high your blood pressure is and the causes. Prescription medication is generally recommended to those with a blood pressure reading of 140/90mmHg or higher and they work to control blood pressure either by reducing water in blood plasma, helping blood vessels relax or slowing down your heartbeat to reduce pressure within veins and arteries.

What treatments are available?

Treatment can either involve lifestyle changes such as reducing drinking, adjusting diet and doing more exercise. If lifestyle adjustments on their own won't be effective enough, they'd recommend that you use either a ACE inhibitor, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blocker, beta-blocker or diuretic treatment or a combination of these treatments, depending on your likelihood of developing cardiovascular problems.

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