One of the most common and underestimated diseases, blood pressure is capable of causing severe health problems such as heart diseases. Do you actually know what blood pressure means? Blood pressure simply means the amount of blood our heart pumps and the resistance that our arteries put against the blood flow. Put simply, narrower the arteries are and more the blood pumped, higher the blood pressure will be.

The worrying thing about blood pressure is that this condition can stay undetected for months and even years. To add to your worry, the damage in the blood vessels and the heart is continued without showing any alarming symptoms. As a result, it puts one at a risk of severe health problems such as heart attack and strokes.

Blood pressure causes and risk factors

Blood pressure causes can be generally categorized into two types.

Primary hypertension

Present mostly in the adults, primary hypertension has no known cause. However, this type of condition forms over the span of many years.

Secondary hypertension

As opposed to the primary hypertension, this one is formed by an underlying condition. Not only it appears instantly, it is more dangerous as it causes higher blood pressure than the primary one. There are several possible causes of secondary hypertension including different medications. These conditions include thyroid problems, birth defects regarding blood vessels, usage of drugs such as cocaine etc.

Risk Factors

Though more common in men, it is more common in people aging 60 years or more. Also, there is a correlation between your age and chances of blood pressure. Older you are, higher the chances of you having high blood pressure are. Blood pressure is genetic, meaning that if someone in your family has it, you are more likely to have high blood pressure as well. [i]Also, doctors and researchers suggest that lethargic lifestyle also contributes to be a potential risk factor.

Blood pressure symptoms

Higher blood pressure is a condition that stays in stealth mode and you do not experience any symptoms even when it reaches very high levels. However, some people may experience headaches, nosebleeds or breath shortness in critical blood pressure condition. [ii]Moreover, it is to be noted that these symptoms do not show up unless or until the blood pressure has reached an alarming level that could very well be life threatening.

It is a good idea to keep checking your blood pressure on regular intervals. In most of the medical stores, there are blood pressure checking machines that measure your blood pressure for free. Also, it is advisable to check blood pressure on both arms, to minimize any error. Consult your doctor to know what should be your ideal blood pressure, given your age.

Blood pressure treatments

Blood pressure is usually measured by placing an inflatable arm cuff around the arm. It is attached to a pressure measuring gauge that gives your blood pressure. The blood pressure is stated in the form of two readings/numbers. These are called systolic and diastolic pressure. The former refers to the arteries pressure as the heart beats and the latter one refers to arteries pressure between beats. A reading of 120 to 129 is generally considered to be normal but you should check with your doctor to know for sure.

As far as the treatment is concerned, the changes in lifestyle are of vital importance. They come first in line as a way to treat blood pressure over time, in a natural way. Upon checking with your doctor, they may suggest you a number of health and lifestyle changes. These may include a clean diet (free of salt), making sure you have ‘normal’ BMI, exercising more and restrict the alcohol usage. It is advisable to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity like brisk walk, swimming, running or even cycling, to keep yourself active.

Doctors also suggest that controlling stress has a good effect on keeping your blood pressure within limits. Focusing on green vegetables rather than junk food with lots of calories is definitely a good step towards a healthy lifestyle.

However, lifestyle changes have a slow impact to lower the blood pressure and are not always effective. Since every case is different, doctors may find it worthy to prescribe you some medicines. These medicines may include Diuretics – also known as the “water pills”. Their primary purpose is to decrease the level of sodium and excess water from the body. Ultimately, they decrease the fluid flowing through the blood vessels and it helps in bringing the blood pressure down.

Calcium channel blockers (CCB)

If the diuretics do not work, the doctors may recommend calcium channel blockers such as Tiazac which are known for relaxing the blood vessels muscles. However, they are more suited for elder people as they slow down the heart rate. However, it is not recommended to take these on your own. Some fruits such as grapefruit interfere with CCB and increases your blood pressure risks.[iii] It would be wise to consult your doctor or a pharmacist to know which medicine suits you best.

Among many other medicines prescribed by the doctor, alpha blockers have good working percentage. Their goal is to decrease nerve impulses to blood vessels which ultimately minimizes the side effects of things that thin the blood vessels. If even alpha blockers do not work, doctors sometimes prescribe alpha-beta blockers. They simply reduce the blood amount that should be pumped through the vessels.

Finally, please remember that sticking to the medicines should be your last resort. Making lifestyle changes is beneficial, not just in the treatment of blood pressure but improving your overall health and thus decreasing the chances of any disease. If the lifestyle and dietary changes do not bring a progress, you should not delay in seeing a doctor to get a comprehensive diagnosis.