High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the condition where the force that the blood exerts on the arteries is above normal, causing damage to the blood vessels. When this is consistently on high levels, the heart is forced to work harder. It becomes less efficient and stressed.
Ideally, the normal blood pressure is 120/80. Health care professionals consider 130/80 high blood pressure and anything above that is stage 2 hypertension.
Over time, consistent high blood pressure can lead to worse health problems such as kidney disease, vision loss, aneurysm, heart attack and heart failure. It is often called a “silent killer” because the symptoms leading up to hypertension can be hard to spot.
According to CDC, about 45% of adults in the United States have hypertension and only about 1 in 4 of them have the condition under control. It is one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide.
Here are some of the main causes of high blood pressure:
Obesity is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure. It has been linked to a lot of heart-related diseases including diabetes, heart attack and coronary heart disease. It is estimated that over 70% of hypertension cases in men and over 60% in women are directly connected to obesity.
Unfortunately, there has been an upward trend in obesity over the past years worldwide. Because of the countless of unhealthy fast food options everywhere, as well as instant meals, it has become harder for the average American to maintain a healthy weight.
The ideal weight will differ from person to person. The height also plays a factor on how much weight someone should be. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is an efficient indicator of the proper weight. This is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of height n meters.
BMIs that are over 30 are in the obese range. BMI is correlated with the direct measure of body fat and it is an important factor in determining hypertension risk.
When there is too much excess fat in the body, the heart is required to work harder to pump and distribute blood throughout the whole system. Because of the stress this puts on the heart, the blood pressure rises. When weight loss happens, there is a significant fall in blood pressure.
You probably know that smoking is really bad for your health. Not only is this bad habit really addictive, it also causes a lot of damage to your body.
What’s inside a cigarette, anyway? There are around 600 ingredients in a cigarette and when burned, it produces over 7,000 chemicals; some of those are toxic to the human body. The three most known ingredients that cause major harm are: tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide.
Nicotine causes addiction, while tar is the chemical that’s associated to the biggest health risks, including cancer. The tar in cigarette is inhaled and goes to the lungs. Over time, the tar will accumulate and cause the lungs to gradually blacken.
This is not the only harm that tar can do to the body. The toxins can also enter the bloodstream and cause damage to other major organs including the kidney, liver and the heart.
Smoking is known to be one of the leading causes of vascular complications such as stroke and heart diseases. Smoking can temporarily raise blood pressure and increase heart rate. It was also found out that hypertensive patients who are smokers are more likely to develop severe hypertension.
You might have inherited more than just eye and hair color from your parents. Some medical conditions, including high blood pressure, can also be passed down from generation to generation.
Those who have a family history of high blood pressure will have a higher chance of having the same medical condition too. It is thought that hereditary factors contribute up to 50% of blood pressure volatility.
Aside from the shared genes, families will also share common environments and lifestyles, which can contribute greatly to the health of an individual. Those who come from families who smoke, drink and eat unhealthy will most likely develop these bad habits too.
Race also plays a part in the risk of getting high blood pressure. According to statistics, African Americans are about 13% more likely to develop high blood pressure than Hispanics, Asians, American Indians and other white races.
It is advisable to learn as much as you can about your family history to have a good grasp of your potential health risks. If you find that you are more susceptible to getting high blood pressure, take extra precautions to manage your health and keep your blood pressure in the healthy range.
4. Overdrinking Alcohol
While moderate alcohol consumption is fine, too much alcohol can cause lasting damage to your body. Drinking more than three glasses of alcohol can temporarily increase blood pressure. Regular heavy drinking can lead to long-term or permanent high blood pressure.
Alcohol consumed in large amounts becomes a toxin to the heart. Chronic alcohol abuse will also exacerbate pre-exisiting heart conditions, so this is definitely not a good thing for those who already have hypertension.
Not only is alcohol bad for the heart, it is also addicting. People who drink are also at risk of developing alcohol dependency – a serious problem of having an uncontrollable desire to drink alcohol. In this state, the alcoholic person becomes both psychologically and physically dependent on alcohol to the point that they would have withdrawal symptoms if they stop.
Because of this, it is not recommended to stop drinking suddenly. Heavy drinkers must taper their drinking slowly in a span of 1-2 weeks to safely lower blood pressure. Quitting suddenly will result to severe high blood pressure for a couple of days, which is even more dangerous.
Another thing to remember is that alcohol contains calories, which is also an added risk factor that increases high blood pressure.
5. Sedentary Lifestyle
It has been said that sitting is the new smoking. An inactive lifestyle of too much sitting may not look harmful at first but this has been proven to be a health hazard. This has serious health implications and has been recognized by the World Health Organization to be one of the top 10 leading causes of death and disability.
A sedentary lifestyle is classified as a type of lifestyle that has little to no physical activity. Ideally, a healthy individual should have 150 minutes of exercise or walk 10,000 steps a day. These will help counteract the inactivity of the rest of the day.
One of the main factors that have contributed to the rise of sedentary living is technology. Because modern society has made a lot of things more convenient – shopping, entertainment and communication – more and more people are depending on mobile phones and apps for their transactions. People prefer to stay at home than go out to run errands.
Sedentary lifestyle is linked to increased blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. People who are less active are most likely to be overweight or obese. Additionally, this has also been shown to be linked to other medical conditions including cancer, anxiety, depression and coronary heart diseases.
Stress is almost unavoidable in this fast paced world. With the pressure of today’s society, it is inevitable go through stressful situations from time to time. It is normal to experience stress on occasion; however, prolonged stress can be extremely harmful.
When a stressful situation happens, the body reacts by producing a surge of hormones. The heart beats faster, the blood vessels narrow and blood pressure temporarily rises. If the body is stressed all the time, this will cause permanent damage to blood vessels, the heart and other major organs in the body.
Some of the most common triggers of stress include work, relationships, divorce, chronic illnesses, financial problems and emotional problems.
Hypertensive patients are advised to do healthy activities to reduce their stress levels. Applying these strategies can greatly help in lowering down blood pressure temporarily. Some stress-reducing techniques include:
- Meditation – Meditation has been known to decrease anxiety and stress. This can be done by sitting comfortably, mindful breathing and focusing on the present. Ten minutes of meditation daily will have a significant positive effect on your mood.
- Exercise – Exercise and physical activities release happy hormones like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, which combat anxiety and stress.
- Sleep – Getting enough sleep every night will not only regulate your mood better, it will also make your body stronger and your mind more focused.
- Laugh – Laughter is the best medicine! Induce laughter by watching funny shows, engaging in fun activities and surrounding yourself with positive people.
7. Sleep Deprivation
Health professionals recommend that adults should have 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. This is what is required so that the body can function optimally. When someone is sleep deprived, the mental, emotional and physical health is affected.
While sleeping may seem like such a simple thing, there’s actually a lot that happens in the body while you sleep. This is the time when the system works to repair the body. Energy is restored, tissues grow, blood pressure and heart rate drops and the brain clears out toxins and makes new connections.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to increased blood pressure. During the deepest stage of sleep, the blood pressure drops significantly. When the body does not experience this night time dip, daytime blood pressure increases.
The quality of sleep is extremely important too. The body needs to be in a state of deep sleep to fully rest and recover. While naps and light sleeping help recharge, it is not enough.
Some of the signs of sleep deprivation to watch out for include:
- Feeling sluggish during afternoons
- Getting drowsy after eating heavy meals
- Having a hard time getting out of bed after waking up
- Moodiness and irritability
- Having a hard time to concentrate
- Lethargic throughout the day
If you experience these symptoms, it may be time for you to catch up on a good night’s sleep. Prioritize relaxing and sleeping before your blood pressure takes a turn for the worse.
8. Salty Food
If you are at risk for having high blood pressure or are already hypertensive, then you might want to cut down on salty food. There is strong evidence that limiting sodium intake lowers blood pressure.
Salt and sodium are among the top ingredients to avoid if you have high blood pressure and heart disease. Because sodium holds excess fluid inside the body, this turns into an added burden for the heart.
While salt may add flavor to food, too much of it can be harmful, especially to those who are salt-sensitive. Eating too much salty food not only increases blood pressure, it can also lead to osteoporosis, kidney disease and stomach cancer.
According to health professionals, we should only consume about 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Those who are hypertensive should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg. The problem is – most foods today are high in sodium, making it hard to stay away from it.
But with a little bit of research and some discipline, it is not impossible to maintain a low sodium diet. Here are some of saltiest foods to avoid:
- Processed meat
- Canned products
- Chicken skin
- Frozen meals
- Cottage cheese
- Tomato sauce
The bottom line…
High blood pressure does not happen overnight. This typically happens over time, because of bad habits and lifestyle decisions. While it is a serious and dangerous medical condition, it can be reversed with proper treatment and discipline.
Now that you have learned some of the leading causes of hypertension, it is time to do some changes. Remember that prevention is always better than cure! By making lifestyle changes – like switching to a low-sodium diet, quitting bad vices and exercising regularly – blood pressure can be regulated more easily.
Keep in mind, though, that simple lifestyle changes may not be enough for some cases. Some may also need medication to treat and manage hypertension. It is always best to consult a health practitioner for proper diagnosis and treatment.