High blood pressure is a widespread disease that often develops gradually. The German Hypertension League estimates that around 20 to 30 million people in Germany have high blood pressure. In the over 55-year-olds, every second person is likely to be affected. Elevated blood pressure is also called hypertension.
Recognizing high blood pressure is not that easy, although it is very common. What are the signs of high blood pressure? Most of the time, the answer to this question is: none at all. Hypertension usually comes without noticeable symptoms. Even if high blood pressure has been present for a long time, it does not become more obvious. On the contrary: the body gets used to it much sooner.
The symptoms of high blood pressure are often so unspecific that it is not easy to assign them to this clinical picture. The symptoms can also occur in the context of other diseases. However, there are some signs that the pressure in your vessels is too high. Some examples:
The dangerous thing about long-term elevated blood pressure is that those affected do not notice the silent danger and it slowly damages the vessels. Undiagnosed and untreated hypertension increases the risk of damage to the heart, brain, or eyes. High blood pressure can also damage the kidneys.
There are different answers to the question “What to do if you have high blood pressure?”. Which treatment for high blood pressure is suitable depends on various factors. These include, among other things, existing diseases of the kidneys, the heart, the blood vessels or being overweight, but also your lifestyle.
Drugs that lower high blood pressure play an important role in hypertension therapy. Sometimes doctors combine multiple blood pressure medications to increase their potency. There are different drug groups of antihypertensive drugs. You take the medication as tablets. The most important are:
In addition, there are also some ways that you can treat high blood pressure naturally. You can do something yourself to prevent excessive pressure in the vessels. Some tips:
Eating a healthy diet can also help lower blood pressure. Some tips:
Whether magnesium helps against high blood pressure has not yet been scientifically proven. Some studies suggest that a lack of magnesium promotes high blood pressure. However, taking magnesium is only advisable if a magnesium deficiency has been diagnosed. Overall, the data on magnesium and a reduction in blood pressure is not yet sufficient.
Coffee only seems to raise blood pressure in people who don’t drink coffee or drink it very rarely. It therefore does not seem necessary to generally avoid coffee in the case of high blood pressure.
Many also rely on medicinal plants (e.g. garlic, wild garlic, green tea) or homeopathy with globules (e.g. Arnica, Aurum metallicum) for high blood pressure. Always use these remedies as a supplement and consult your doctor beforehand.
High blood pressure is a hidden danger that usually does not manifest itself in symptoms until late and is therefore not easy to recognize. Measure your blood pressure yourself more frequently and always consult your doctor if the values are repeatedly high.
If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should always keep a close eye on your body. Because sometimes the blood pressure can shoot up so much (between 180/120 mmHg and 230/130 mmHg) that it becomes dangerous and you have to call an ambulance. Hypertensive crisis is the name of this clinical picture in medical terminology. If the elevated blood pressure values damage the organs, there is a hypertensive emergency.
The following symptoms indicate this:
High blood pressure can have various reasons. First of all, doctors differentiate between two forms of high blood pressure – depending on the cause:
The exact causes of primary high blood pressure are not yet known. But the following factors probably play a role:
Primary high blood pressure often occurs in combination with other diseases: elevated blood lipids, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Doctors call this “tetrapack” metabolic syndrome.
Secondary high blood pressure is the result of another disease. The most common causes of secondary hypertension are:
Malignant hypertension is a particularly severe form of high blood pressure, but it is rare. Several things come together: A severe increase in arterial blood pressure, combined with vascular damage, especially in the eyes and kidneys. The lower (diastolic) blood pressure value is often above 140 mmHg. Organ damage has already occurred and those affected need immediate medical help.
By definition, high blood pressure is one of the cardiovascular diseases. The pressure in the blood vessels is too high. The technical term for high blood pressure is arterial hypertension.
It is completely normal for blood pressure to fluctuate over the course of the day and increase in certain situations. High blood pressure is only present from a systolic value of 140 mmHg and a diastolic value of 90 mmHg.
According to estimates by the German Hypertension League, between 20 and 30 million people in Germany suffer from high blood pressure – often without knowing it. High blood pressure is particularly common in old age. The reason is that with increasing age, calcium, fats and other substances are deposited in the vessels and the blood vessels lose their elasticity. They narrow more and more and so the risk of high blood pressure increases. Men are often affected from the age of 55, women from the age of 50 (due to the menopause).
High blood pressure can also occur in children. In particular, the risk factors overweight and lack of exercise play a role. Hypertension used to be less common in children, but now high blood pressure is becoming more common at a young age.
Under certain conditions, high blood pressure can meet the criteria for a severe disability. For example, if it is chronic hypertension and several organs are damaged. It depends on the individual case which degree of disability is awarded in the case of high blood pressure.
The blood pressure is indicated with two values. The systolic value indicates the moment of highest pressure when the heart is pumping blood into the main artery. The diastolic value indicates the moment of lowest pressure when the heart is not pumping blood into the main artery.
The pressure is measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury). 1mmHg represents the pressure exerted by a one millimeter high column of mercury. Doctors use this parameter to indicate the pressure of body fluids – just like the pressure of the blood in the vessels.
If your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher, doctors call it high blood pressure. It is sufficient for the diagnosis if only one of the two values is above the limit value.
When measuring blood pressure, however, it should be noted that blood pressure naturally increases with exertion or excitement. You should therefore be relaxed when measuring your blood pressure.
The high blood pressure table shows the different values and when your blood pressure is too high:
At the beginning of the hypertension diagnosis, the doctor will ask you a few questions. He will clarify whether there are already cases of high blood pressure in your family – which would increase the likelihood of hypertension – and ask about other diseases or risk factors.
The doctor will then measure your blood pressure. After a break of about three to five minutes, the doctor determines the blood pressure in both arms (later only in one arm). As a rule, the doctor repeats the measurement on different days. Some patients only have high blood pressure in the doctor’s office – perhaps because they are nervous (so-called “white coat syndrome”). Then the doctor can give you a device that measures and records your blood pressure for 24 hours at a time.
In addition to measuring blood pressure, the doctor often also carries out other tests. He listens to the lungs, heart and larger vessels with a stethoscope and takes blood for analysis. An ultrasound of the kidneys can give conclusions as to whether the kidney is already damaged.
Some fluctuations in blood pressure are normal. High blood pressure at night is less common because blood pressure drops at rest. Blood pressure often goes up and down during the day, depending on activity and situation.
The danger of high blood pressure lies in the fact that those affected often do not notice it and do not (have) treated it. So it can damage the body for years. The cardiovascular system in particular is affected by long-term elevated blood pressure. But kidneys, eyes and the brain also suffer from hypertension.
Some examples of which organs high blood pressure can damage:
High blood pressure during pregnancy carries a certain risk of complications. If hypertension already exists before pregnancy or if it develops in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (GW), doctors speak of pregnancy-independent hypertension. If, on the other hand, the high blood pressure in the mother-to-be does not develop until after the 20th week of pregnancy, the high blood pressure is pregnancy-related. Blood pressure usually returns to normal within six weeks after birth.
In most cases, elevated blood pressure levels during pregnancy do not affect the health of the child. However, if the pregnant woman excretes more protein in the urine, if the liver values are elevated, if she gains weight very quickly and if swelling occurs on the hands and face, this can indicate preeclampsia or eclampsia – a dangerous situation, but only affects less than 0.1 percent of all pregnant women.
Prevent high blood pressure – some tips
The best way to prevent high blood pressure is through a healthy lifestyle:
If you follow these tips, you can contribute to healthy blood pressure. And this in turn benefits your vessels as well as the heart, brain and other organs.
Many healthy people regularly take acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) to prevent heart attacks and strokes. However, ASA is not generally recommended, but only recommended for certain risk groups with previous blood vessel diseases. You should only take ASA in low doses.
Even without coronary heart disease or a heart attack or stroke in the past, acetylsalicylic acid can sometimes be useful. Namely, if the risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years is statistically more than 20 percent. Talk to your cardiologist and have your individual risk calculated. In general, do not take ASA on your own over a long period of time.
This article was written by Jan Schwenkenbecher, psychologist M.Sc., science journalist.
The original of this post “High blood pressure: How to recognize the common disease and prevent it” comes from FOCUS doctor search.