High blood pressure: causes, symptoms, treatment

Hypertension is persistent high blood pressure that can damage the heart and arteries. High blood pressure becomes more common with advancing age. What are the causes of high blood pressure and what are the symptoms? How can high blood pressure be treated and what is the prognosis? What values does normal blood pressure have?

Article content

  • Blood pressure and what is normal blood pressure?
  • Measuring blood pressure
  • High blood pressure/hypertension
  • Symptoms of high blood pressure
  • Sudden death
  • Causes of high blood pressure
  • Complications of high blood pressure
  • Diagnosis high blood pressure
  • Treatment of high blood pressure
  • High blood pressure prognosis

Blood pressure and what is normal blood pressure?

Blood pressure is often measured during medical examinations. Systolic pressure (this is the highest number) is measured when the heart contracts and diastolic pressure (the lowest number) when the heart relaxes. In general, values between 100/60 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg are considered normal for an adult . Blood pressure can be measured when you are sitting, standing or lying down. Blood pressure naturally fluctuates, during exercise the pressure increases, during rest the pressure decreases.

Measuring blood pressure

During the measurement, a cuff is placed around the upper arm and it is inflated with a hand pump. The doctor then does two things at the same time: deflates the cuff and listens to the sound tones in the arteries.

High blood pressure/hypertension

High blood pressure is common; in the Western world it is estimated that one in five adults has high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called hypertension. High blood pressure places extra strain on the heart and arteries, leading to damage to weak tissues. The higher the blood pressure, the more likely there is to develop complications. You should then think of a heart attack or a stroke. You can damage your eyes and kidneys if high blood pressure is not addressed. If you are a healthy young adult at rest, your blood pressure should not exceed 120/80 mmHg. If you suffer from high blood pressure, you will also have a blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg at rest.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

usually does not cause any complaints , but if the blood pressure is very high, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Pain in the head;
  • Vertigo;
  • Not seeing clearly.

Sudden death

The symptoms of damage caused by high blood pressure are usually the only complaints. Arteries and organs are usually damaged beyond repair. People can die suddenly from a stroke or heart attack caused by high blood pressure. Fortunately, nowadays high blood pressure is diagnosed at an increasingly earlier stage (before symptoms appear) by providing information and carrying out checks. Because diagnosis is made more quickly today and because treatment methods are improving, heart attacks and strokes are much less common.

Causes of high blood pressure

  • For most people with high blood pressure, there is no clear cause .
  • There are risk factors : tension, consuming too much alcohol, a lot of salt in the diet, and too high body weight. High blood pressure is therefore most common in developed countries. The condition hardly occurs in countries where there is little salt in the diet (so salt probably plays a role).
  • High blood pressure often runs in the family (hereditary factor).
  • High blood pressure mainly occurs in people over the age of forty . The blood vessels become less resilient as we age.
  • Men have high blood pressure more often than women.
  • Sometimes there is a clear cause for high blood pressure: for example, it may be kidney disease, a hormone disorder (e.g. hyperaldosteronism), Cushing’s syndrome. Some medications cause high blood pressure.
  • In pregnant women, high blood pressure can lead to preeclampsia and eclampsia. These are potentially life-threatening conditions. High blood pressure usually returns to normal levels after the birth of the child.

Complications of high blood pressure

The higher the blood pressure and the longer the duration of the high blood pressure, the greater the risk of damage to the heart, arteries and kidneys. Damaged arteries are more likely to become narrowed by atherosclerosis . Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries can cause chest pain and myocardial infarction . In other arteries in the body, atherosclerosis can lead to a widening of the aorta or lead to a stroke . If the heart is overloaded due to high blood pressure, this can lead to chronic heart failure. If the arteries of the kidneys become damaged, this can lead to chronic kidney problems . Furthermore, the arteries in the retina of the eye can be affected by high blood pressure.

Diagnosis high blood pressure

It is wise to have your blood pressure measured occasionally from the age of eighteen. Nerves may cause blood pressure to temporarily rise. The diagnosis is therefore not made after one measurement, usually only when the blood pressure was too high on five different measurements. In case of high blood pressure, it can be examined whether organs are damaged by means of echocardiography, electrocardiography and examination of the eyes. Furthermore, the cholesterol level and the sugar level in the blood can be determined.

Treatment of high blood pressure

High blood pressure cannot usually be cured, but blood pressure can be controlled with treatment. When it comes to blood pressure that is slightly elevated, you can usually achieve a lot by changing your lifestyle. Use less salt, less or no alcohol, maintain a healthy weight and don’t smoke. If all this does not help, a doctor can prescribe medication to lower blood pressure. It can be difficult to find the right medicine and dosage for someone, so time must be taken. In case of side effects you must take immediate action, consult with the doctor, adjustment of the medication may help. If high blood pressure is caused by a certain disease, treating the disease can reduce blood pressure to normal values.

High blood pressure prognosis

The prognosis depends on the level of blood pressure and how long the blood pressure has been high. If you live differently and are prescribed medication, your blood pressure will usually be reduced. This reduces the chance of complications. It is true that measures often have to be maintained throughout life. The higher the blood pressure and the longer the high blood pressure is present, the greater the risk of complications.