Last modified on May 2022
With inputs from Dr Sreelekha Daruvuri
- Systolic & diastolic readings: What do they mean?
- Interesting facts on hypertension you didn’t know
- Diet for high blood pressure
- Complications with hypertension
- FAQs and more
Chapter 1: What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a medical condition wherein the blood pressure in your arteries is higher than it should normally be.
Generally, when blood flows through the blood vessels, they exert a force on the walls of your arteries. But if this pressure gets abnormally high, it becomes harder for your heart to pump blood. This condition, if left untreated, may eventually cause health complications such as heart or kidney disease.
|BLOOD PRESSURE CATEGORY||SYSTOLIC Readings (mm Hg)||DIASTOLIC Readings (mm Hg)|
|NORMAL||LESS THAN 120||LESS THAN 80|
|ELEVATED||120 – 129||LESS THAN 80|
|HIGH BP STAGE 1||130 – 139||80 – 89|
|HIGH BP STAGE 2||140 OR HIGHER||90 OR HIGHER|
|HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS (consult your doctor immediately)||HIGHER THAN 180||HIGHER THAN 120|
Chapter 2: How to know if you have high blood pressure?
BP is measured using a medical instrument called a sphygmomanometer that can be manual or a digital BP monitor device. These instruments measure your blood pressure and show two readings. They are:
- Systolic reading: It represents the pressure on your blood vessels when your heart contracts.
- Diastolic reading: It represents the pressure on your blood vessels when the heart rests between the heartbeats.
In a healthy person, the blood pressure is less than or equal to 120/80 mmHg. 120 is the systolic reading, and 80 is the diastolic reading.
Chapter 3: What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
A person with high blood pressure may or may not experience symptoms. Therefore, hypertension is also known as the “silent killer.” Therefore the only sure way to know if you have hypertension is by measuring your BP. But those that do present symptoms may experience one or more of the following symptoms.
- Shortness of breath
But do you know that you can now use your phone to easily monitor your blood pressure?
All you have to do is place your index finger on the phone’s camera, and you are good to go.
The MFine BP Monitor uses Machine Learning algorithms to measure BP with close to 90 percent accuracy, and in 30 seconds, you can see your test results.
Chapter 4: When to see a doctor?
If you have a high blood pressure reading over 180/120 mmHg, you need to seek medical help immediately. These are some symptoms you need to keep in mind,
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Vision problems
- Blood in urine
- Confusion, memory loss, or loss of consciousness
- Stroke (symptoms like weakness in one half of the body)
- Heart attack symptoms like severe chest pain with sweating
Chapter 5: What are the causes of hypertension?
Causes of hypertension may be
- Primary: Here, high blood pressure is due to bad diet, lifestyle and genetics and not due to any medical condition.
- Secondary: Here, high blood pressure is due to an underlying medical condition such as
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid diseases
- Congenital conditions (or birth defects)
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Certain medications or drugs
Chapter 6: Who is at risk for hypertension?
Hypertension has many risk factors. Following people are at a higher risk for developing hypertension.
The probability of developing hypertension increases with age.
Men are more likely than women to develop hypertension — unlike men, women are less likely to develop high blood pressure before age 65.
People with unhealthy lifestyle habits:
Here is a list of the top 7 poor lifestyle choices that may lead to hypertension. They are
- Physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle
- Unhealthy and untimely diet
- Substance & alcohol abuse, including performance-enhancing drugs
- Ignoring signs and symptoms of mental illness
- Not getting enough sleep or erratic sleep patterns
People with unhealthy diet and eating habits:
Too much sodium or too little potassium can cause your body to retain fluid leading to high blood pressure. (potassium levels help balance out sodium levels).
Obesity is one of the risk factors for hypertension. This is due to multiple factors like increased stress system activity, insulin resistance, dysfunction of blood vessel lining
Progeny of people with hypertension:
Hypertension tends to run in the family from one generation to another.
People with certain health conditions:
Certain chronic health conditions such as diabetes, and kidney disease can lead to hypertension.
Read more on 5 warning signs that call for a health check-up.
Chapter 7: What are some complications with hypertension?
1) Heart attacks & strokes:
How is hypertension related to heart attacks?
Due to the constant increase in pressure, minor damage happens to the blood vessel walls, and the LDL Cholesterol forms plaques eventually. These plaques can block blood flow and cause heart attacks (or atherosclerosis) and strokes..
2) Kidney disease:
Due to hypertension, blood vessels and nephrons (structural and functional units of kidneys that filter out urine) in your kidneys can be damaged, causing your kidneys to shrink in size. As a result, your kidneys may not function normally.
3) Hypertensive retinopathy:
High blood pressure can damage your eyes’ blood vessels, causing vision loss.
4) Vascular dementia:
It is a condition wherein high blood pressure can limit blood flow to the brain including memory areas, causing dementia. Sometimes even strokes can cause vascular dementia if the area affected is involved in memory function. People with high BP have also shown to have trouble with memory and understanding concepts.
It’s a medical condition wherein your blood vessels can weaken and swell up like a balloon. The bulge may look like a berry hanging on the stem, and when they rupture, it can be fatal and life-threatening. An aneurysm can be of different types:
- Aneurysm of the brain: It’s a condition where blood vessels in the brain bulge like a balloon due to weakness in the wall, and when they rupture, they cause a brain hemorrhage.
- Aneurysm of the abdominal aorta: Aorta is the main artery that carries blood away from the heart to the rest of your body. Aneurysms can be caused due to high blood pressure and since the wall is weakened it can rupture. This medical condition can cause internal bleeding that can be life-threatening.
- Aneurysm of the thoracic aorta: Here, high BP can cause weakening of the aorta wall and aneurysm in the length that passes through the chest.
6) Cor pulmonale:
It’s also called pulmonary hypertension.
Pulmonary arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the right side of your heart to the lungs.
Cor pulmonale causes the right side of your heart to malfunction. One way to prevent this condition is by controlling your blood pressure.
7) Labile hypertension:
It’s a medical condition wherein the patient’s blood pressure fluctuates between normal and high. Labile hypertension increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, strokes, and heart failure.
8) Stroke: High Blood pressure can also increase the risk of stroke and interruption in the blood flow.
Chapter 8: Diagnosis of high blood pressure:
The only way to diagnose hypertension is by measuring your blood pressure using a manual sphygmomanometer or a digital BP monitor.
Additionally, your doctor may also perform blood tests and scans to detect the extent of complications of high blood pressure (such as kidney damage).
A blood test may also be performed if you have secondary hypertension, i.e., hypertension due to an underlying medical condition that is treatable or to check for complications. It includes checking for abnormalities in your
- Blood glucose levels
- Electrolyte levels
- Thyroid levels
- BUN and creatinine levels
The doctor may also analyze your urine sample to determine if kidney disease, diabetes, or drugs/medications are causing high blood pressure.
Chapter 9: How to control high blood pressure?
Treatment for high blood pressure includes a combination of diet, medications, and lifestyle changes.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet:
A healthy & wholesome diet for hypertension includes (in case you don’t have any other health complications such as kidney disease or diabetes)
- Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
- Low-fat dairy
- Lean protein like fish and chicken
- Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds
- Potassium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, oranges, and melons
- Foods rich in magnesium: legumes and seeds
Additionally, you may have to reduce your salt intake (to less than 3g/day), avoid smoking, chewing tobacco, and reduce alcohol consumption.
Also, please note that if you have hypertension-related health complications such as kidney disease, or other cardiovascular ailments, you may have to optimize further your intake of water, proteins, and other vital macronutrients. Therefore, it’s advisable to speak with a good nutritionist who would be able to tailor and customize a diet plan that works best for you.
Controlling hypertension with medications:
Several medications are used to treat hypertension. Your doctor would prescribe one or more of the following medications:
- ACE inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Alpha beta-blockers
- Central alpha agonists
- Aldosterone receptor antagonists
- Direct renin inhibitors
Please consult your doctor before taking any of the above medications. Self-medication is not advisable.
Making Lifestyle changes:
Here are 7 ways to manage your blood pressure without medications.
- Exercise and lose weight
- Eat a healthy balanced diet
- Limit your intake of salt (or sodium)
- Limit your consumption of alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Limit your intake of caffeine
- Manage your stress levels
Some facts on high blood pressure
Did you know?
- High blood pressure usually doesn’t have any symptoms.
- Young people, too, can have high blood pressure.
- Hypertension can damage your kidneys, eyes, and brain.
- Most people who have high blood pressure don’t even know it.
- The World Health Organization rates hypertension as the most important cause of premature deaths.
- One out of every four adults aged 20 to 44 suffers from hypertension in India. About 33% of urban and 25% of rural Indians suffer from high blood pressure.
- Men are more likely to develop hypertension than women before the age of 65.
- Hypertension is directly responsible for 57% of all strokes deaths and 24% of all coronary heart diseases in India.
- High blood pressure is linked to dementia.
Chapter 10: Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 3 symptoms of hypertension?
- Shortness of breath
Does anxiety cause high blood pressure?
Anxiety does not cause hypertension but can temporarily increase the blood pressure. But stress associated with long term anxiety can be a risk factor for hypertension.
Can hypertension be cured?
Hypertension is a chronic condition. As of date, there’s no permanent cure. However, it can be effectively managed through diet, medications, and lifestyle changes.
What are signs of pressure?
Hypertension is a silent killer, meaning in many cases, people aren’t even aware they have high BP. Therefore, the only sure way to know if you have hypertension is by getting checked by a doctor.
How do you confirm hypertension?
Hypertension is measured using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer. If your blood pressure is above 120/80 mm Hg, it means you have hypertension.
Does caffeine raise blood pressure?
Caffeine from coffee can temporarily increase your blood pressure. It’s unclear why that happens, but it’s advisable to limit your caffeine consumption if you have hypertension.
Does aspirin lower blood pressure?
Aspirin does not lower blood pressure on its own. However, it can thin out the blood and prevent stroke-related blood clots and help manage blood pressure complications.
Does drinking water help lower blood pressure?
Drinking water is an effective lifestyle modification that one can adopt to manage your blood pressure. But water on its own does not lower BP.
What foods cause hypertension?
- Foods high in sodium content (salt)
- Processed foods
Why do I need a blood test for high blood pressure?
Your doctor may prescribe a blood test to assess the damage caused to your vital organs, such as kidneys, due to very high blood pressure.
What are the 4 stages of hypertension?
- Elevated stage – 120-129/80 mm Hg
- High blood pressure stage (Hypertension)1 – 130 – 139/80 – 89 mm Hg
- High blood pressure stage(Hypertension) 2 – >140/90 mm Hg
- Hypertensive crisis – >180/120 mm Hg
Can you live a long life with high blood pressure?
Medication, diet, and lifestyle modifications can significantly improve your quality of life and also life expectancy. But if you don’t seek medical help, you are at a higher risk for cardiovascular and kidney diseases.
Should I lie down if my blood pressure is high?
Sleeping on the left side is the best position to sleep if you have high blood pressure but as such is not a treatment option.
Which organs are affected by high blood pressure?
- Brain and nerves
- Cardiovascular system
What time of the day is blood pressure highest?
Usually, your blood pressure peaks in the morning and evening and drops at night. Blood pressure is lowest when you are sleeping.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure in a woman?
Mild symptoms include headaches, fatigue and shortness of breath. Severe symptoms that require immediate medical help include shortness of breath, nosebleeds, chest pain, vision problems, palpitations, and blood in the urine.
Can your blood pressure be high for no reason?
There’s no identifiable direct reason for high blood pressure in most adults.Only in a few adults cause can be identified. Hypertension is also known as the “silent killer.”
What is the fastest way to cure high blood pressure?
There’s no quick fix for high blood pressure. The only sure way to manage hypertension is through diet, medication, and lifestyle modifications.
Can I have a healthy pregnancy with hypertension?
Your doctor can effectively manage pregnancy-induced hypertension. Most women with gestational hypertension go on to have healthy pregnancies and delivery.
What causes high blood pressure while pregnant?
Pregnancy-induced hypertension includes
- gestational hypertension and
- Reasons for high blood pressure in pregnancy can be early or late pregnancies, previous cases of hypertension and multiple pregnancies.
Can high blood pressure cause a miscarriage?
Studies suggest that hypertension before pregnancy may increase your chance of miscarriage.
What are the complications of cor pulmonale?
- Pedal edema
- Passive hepatic congestion
Does pulmonary hypertension increase blood pressure?
Pulmonary hypertension is a medical condition that causes the right side of your heart to malfunction.
Can kidney damage from high blood pressure be reversed?
Kidney damage is irreversible. But there is help, and it can be effectively managed through medications.
How long does high blood pressure take to damage kidneys?
Less severe forms of hypertension may take several years. But very high blood pressure can damage your kidneys in a very short span of time.
What color is urine when your kidneys are failing?
Brown, red or purple urine is an indication that your kidneys are failing, but in some patients there can be no change in the color of urine even though kidneys are affected.
Can failing kidneys cause high blood pressure?
Kidneys play a significant role in controlling your blood pressure. As a result, failing kidneys can cause high blood pressure.
Can infected kidneys cause high blood pressure?
Infection can cause scarring and damage to your kidneys. And since kidneys play an important role in controlling your blood pressure, infected kidneys can cause high blood pressure.
Is drinking a lot of water good for your kidneys?
Generally, drinking adequate water is good for your kidneys and overall health. But in case your kidneys are damaged as a result of hypertension, your doctor may advise you to drink a limited quantity of water.