A high blood pressure reading means your heart is working harder than it should to pump blood, and your arteries are stressed, which is risky. The cause of high blood pressure is often unknown, but there are a variety of lifestyle factors that can cause high blood pressure, including smoking, stress, being overweight and lack of exercise, as well as dietary factors such as a high salt intake, excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption. Find out what is known about the causes of high blood pressure.

Do You Have High Blood Pressure?

Many people don't know they have high blood pressure, and of those who do know, about 7 out of every 10 don't have their blood pressure under control. So if you have no idea what your blood pressure is, ask your doctor to check it or check it yourself.

If you've already been diagnosed with hypertension, make sure you follow the advice your doctor has given you.

If you don't lower your blood pressure, you face an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and other deadly illnesses. You are considered to have high blood pressure (hypertension) when systolic pressure (the top number) is 140 or higher, or the diastolic pressure (bottom number) is 90 or higher. However, if and when your blood pressure starts to creep up, your doctor will urge you to take measures to control it.

High blood pressure readings

Some people get so nervous when a doctor checks their blood pressure that they experience a temporary rise in blood pressure–known as ‘white-coat hypertension’. You may be able to get a more accurate picture of your blood pressure by buying a blood pressure monitor and taking your own readings at home. Arm monitors are generally more accurate than wrist monitors. (Make sure you get one with the correct sized cuff, as this can affect your blood pressure reading.) By averaging out the readings, you'll get a true picture of your blood pressure–but you should still have your BP checked by a registered nurse or GP on a regular basis.

Learn from vegetarians

Vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure due to their higher intake of fibre, complex carbohydrates and the vitamins and nutrients in fruit and vegetables that help keep blood pressure at a normal level.

Learn more about lowering your blood pressure

 

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, call your doctor if you experience chronic headache, palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, nosebleeds, blurred vision, flushed face, frequent urination or ringing in the ears. These symptoms suggest that your blood pressure is not being adequately controlled.

Imagine a peaceful river meandering between meadows and country fields. It rounds a bend and drops into a narrow, rock-walled ravine. Abruptly, the gentle flow becomes a fierce torrent. Now imagine your arteries and their delicate, branching capillaries growing narrow and hardening. Inside, unseen and unfelt, your blood hurtles along like a river squeezed into a ravine, banging so forcefully against artery walls that it can injure and weaken them.

Ultimately, this pressure can rupture blood vessels in the brain (causing a stroke) or the abdomen (causing an abdominal aortic aneurysm). It can cause the heart muscle to enlarge and weaken, and is a powerful promoter of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries, the precursor to heart attack.

 

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