College of DuPage Nursing Student Jacqueline Merker wrote for Healthy Lombard that Hypertension (HTN) refers to increased blood pressure (BP). A blood pressure of less than 120/80 is considered normal according to The American Heart Association (AHA, 2017). Elevated BP readings begin when the systolic is above 120 mm of Hg, or 120-129 systolic, and the diastolic BP is less than 80 mm of Hg. Prehypertension is defined as 130-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic. Stage 1 is a result of 140-159 or higher systolic or 90-99 or higher diastolic. Stage 2 is higher than 160 and/or higher than 100; if this is the reading, a primary care provider should be consulted immediately. Any blood pressure reading above normal, however, should be brought to the attention of the primary care provider.
What is high blood pressure?
To understand high blood pressure, it is important to understand more information about blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2016), blood pressure is the pressure from blood pushing against the walls of the arteries, or blood vessels, that carry blood from the heart to the entire body. The top number of a blood pressure reading is systolic, which measures the pressure exerted in the vessels each time the heartbeats. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure and measures the pressure of blood in the arteries at rest between each heartbeat. A normal range for the BP is <120 systolic and <80 mmHg diastolic. According to the AHA (2017) half of all U.S. adults have hypertension, but many are unaware they have it.
According to the CDC Science Clips (2020) certain racial groups are at higher risk for HTN with lower rates of controlling it and experiencing significantly associated health outcomes. Health inequalities are present across all aspects of HTN including awareness, severity, and treatment.
What are the signs and symptoms of HTN?
Unfortunately, there are often no warning signs for hypertension, thus, it has been dubbed, THE SILENT KILLER. The only way to know a BP reading is to measure it. This may be done by consulting your physician or go to Jewel or Walgreens and have it measured for free.
What causes hypertension?
HTN develops over time and can happen due to unhealthy life choices such as a lack of exercise, diabetes, diet, obesity, and smoking. The amount of stress in your life can also contribute to HTN as well as genetics. If it is not managed, HTN may lead to heart disease, stroke, or kidney disease. The ongoing damage to the arteries makes them less elastic, decreasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to organs in the body as well as to the heart muscle itself. HTN commonly leads to angina, heart attack, and heart failure in addition to affecting the brain and eyes.
Management of Hypertension
Although hypertension can be managed with lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, weight management, abstaining from alcohol, smoking, and a minimal stress level, however, some individuals require medication for adequate BP control. There are many medications that are considered safe, so talking to a health care provider to get a prescription to manage this silent threat is important. It is important to not be hesitant even if there is no definitive cause of the diagnosis as the alternative may result in long-term serious health consequences.
Take Home Message
Please help take care of one another and spread the word. If the topic comes up in conversation, share the knowledge. Ask if they have been to the doctor recently or had the blood pressure checked. Blood pressure can increase quickly without any warning. The last thing anyone wants is a stroke or heart attack. All because we forgot to check our blood pressure regularly knowing we were on the boarder. It only takes 3 minutes.