Blood pressure is the pressure that blood exerts on arterial walls when flowing through the circulatory system. It is pressure in major arteries and therefore is sometimes referred to as arterial blood pressure. This pressure can be measured with the help of a sphygmomanometer. Blood pressure values fluctuate over the course of a day and can also be influenced by gender, emotions or certain habits. If blood pressure exceeds specific limits, it is a sign of a blood pressure disorder. These can be either an increase or decrease in blood pressure.
The Heart and Blood Pressure
The human heart is composed of a many systems, allowing us to perform everyday activities. One such system is the cardiovascular system. This is a general name encompassing all the blood vessels in the blood, as well as the heart. The cardiovascular system is a closed system, connected by tubes inside which blood flows. This flow is ensured by the heart's contractions. The heart essentially functions as a pump. Blood pressure is known as the pressure that the blood exerts on the walls of the heart and blood vessels. This pressure changes significantly over time depending on the heart's contractions and the resulting tension in the vascular walls.
Normal Blood Pressure Values
Blood pressure values naturally fluctuate throughout the day. However, it has been determined that the ideal blood pressure in adults is 120/80 mmHg at rest. The first number indicates the pressure in the circulatory system during the heart's contraction. This is known as the systolic pressure, or systole. The second number indicates the pressure in the circulatory system when the heart relaxes and is referred to as the diastolic pressure, or diastole. It is important to remember that these values do not appear during each measurement. Normal blood pressure is considered to be between 110/65 and 140/90. Younger individuals, especially women, tend to naturally have lower blood pressure. With an increase in age, blood pressure increases as well. Blood pressure is also higher during physical activity.
Blood Pressure Disorders
Blood pressure is a parameter that changes naturally throughout the day. It is therefore recommended to measure it at the same time of day each time. In the event that blood pressure reaches a certain threshold, whether it is the diastolic or systolic part, it is a sign of a blood pressure disorder. If blood pressure falls below a certain threshold, it is a sign of hypotension, or low blood pressure. On the other hand, if blood pressure rises above a certain threshold, it is a sign of hypertension or high blood pressure. It is important to mention that both types are pathological conditions that must be treated.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases. High blood pressure affects about 20% of the population, but there are still a number of people that are unaware of their illness, and therefore are not getting any treatment. High blood pressure is a severe illness that contributes to the high mortality rate of cardiovascular diseases, due to its long duration. Blood pressure is the force that flowing blood exerts on arterial walls. If arteries are narrowed or somehow become less elastic, blood pressure increases in order for blood to be able to be pumped to organs as under normal conditions. With the increased duration of the disease, changes in organs occur, especially in the heart, brain and kidneys. High blood pressure affects smaller vessels, which in the end can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Normal blood pressure values are between 110/65 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg. High blood pressure is the repeated measurement of blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is an illness that affects both the young and the old, and carries a number of complications. There are two types of high blood pressure, divided according to their cause. These types are primary and secondary high blood pressure.
Primary High Blood Pressure
Primary high blood pressure affects about 90-95% of all high blood pressure suffers. Medically it is also called idiopathic hypertension, which means that the cause of the high blood pressure is unknown. It usually affects individuals between 35 and 45 years of age and can rarely appear in children as well. The cause of primary high blood pressure is most likely multifactorial, including the effects of genetics, race and sex. Women are more often affected by this illness. Environmental influences mainly include stress, excess alcohol consumption, smoking, inactivity and an unhealthy diet rich in fats and salt.
Secondary High Blood Pressure
Secondary high blood pressure affects about 5-10% of all high blood pressure sufferers. It usually appears in younger individuals and is caused by another, underlying illness. The illnesses causing hypertension are usually kidney diseases, diseases of the renal arteries, adrenal disorders, diabetes, heart diseases or depression. It is therefore important to treat the underlying illness first, in order to lower the high blood pressure.
Manifestations of High Blood Pressure
Even though high blood pressure is dangerous, it develops quietly and painlessly. This is why many people do not know that they suffer from this illness; most people do not have any manifestations or symptoms even after many years of the illness. If clinical symptoms do appear, they are often non-specific, such as headaches, nose bleeds, restlessness, fatigue, vomiting, heart palpitations, pressure in the temples or a rustling in the ears. Sleep disorders can also appear.
Consequences of High Blood Pressure
If high blood pressure is not treated, changes in organs begin to develop. Symptoms are typically shortness of breath, chest pain, vision disorders, sensitivity problems, or problems with the blood supply to the brain. High blood pressure damages blood vessels, which can lead to bleeding into the brain, stroke, ischemic heart diseases or myocardial infarction. Vision problems or even blindness can occur following damage to vessels in the eye, and damage to renal blood vessels can lead to kidney failure. Last but not least, high blood pressure can lead to heart failure. Sometimes people find out they have high blood pressure only once they experience a so-called hypertensive crisis; manifested by headaches, cramps, nausea and vomiting. Blood pressure reaches more than 220/110 mmHg in these cases and becomes life-threatening.
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is often detected by chance during an unrelated doctor's visit. A diagnosis of high blood pressure is based on its measurement with the help of a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure meter. Nowadays we use mercury or digital blood pressure meters. The cuff is wrapped around the patient's relaxed upper arm and blown up. In the event that a blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg is detected, the measurement should be repeated in order to prevent so-called white coat syndrome. This is when anxiety and fear over visiting the doctor increases the patient's blood pressure. High blood pressure is thus only temporary and on a psychological basis.
Treating High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a condition that must be treated. Treatment for high blood pressure is classified under two types; conservative and pharmacological treatment.
Conservative Treatment for High Blood Pressure
Conservative treatment rests in lifestyle modifications. Because people suffering from high blood pressure are often overweight, an important step in treating this illness is by losing weight. It is also necessary to change eating habits in order to limit one's fat intake, and in corporate more fruits and vegetables. Patients suffering from high blood pressure should stop adding salt to foods. Emphasis should be put on eating regularly. It is also important to avoid smoking, alcohol and stressful situations. Regular exercise is recommended.
Pharmacological Treatment for High Blood Pressure
Pharmacological treatment is based on the regular administration of medications that lower blood pressure in a variety of mechanisms. These are medications from various groups that work in different ways, but all lead to the same result; they lower blood pressure. Antihypertensives are administered and they include diuretics, calcium channel blockers, ACE-inhibitors and beta-blockers. The most frequent choice, however, is a combination of the above mentioned groups of medications. It is important to realize that pharmacological treatment is for life. In the event of high blood pressure caused by another underlying illness, the illness must be treated first in order to lower blood pressure.
Preventing High Blood Pressure
Anyone can be in danger of developing high blood pressure regardless of age or sex. Individuals with a family history of high blood pressure should pay extra attention to their health. Men above the age of 55, and women above 65 and post-menopause, overweight individuals, inactive individuals, smokers and individuals with a high level of cholesterol and diabetes are at an increased risk of high blood pressure. Prevention of high blood pressure is based on lifestyle changes; limiting salty and fatty foods, limiting alcohol and limiting smoking. One of the most basic preventative methods for high blood pressure is regular physical activity. Regular doctor's visits are also important and they help early diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Low Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure that flowing bloods exerts on arterial walls. Normal blood pressure values are between 110/65 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg. If a blood pressure below 110/65mmHg is measured repeatedly, it is a sign of low blood pressure, or hypotension. Low blood pressure can affect young, healthy individuals, as well older individuals in whom low blood pressure is usually a sign of illness. Long-term low blood pressure must be treated in order to prevent complications.
Causes of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure, medically known as hypotension, is the repeated measurement of blood pressure under 110/65 mmHg. Hypotension can be classified according to its cause as primary or secondary hypotension.
Primary Low Blood Pressure
Primary low blood pressure develops from unknown causes and mostly affects young, healthy women. This may be due to slight variations in nervous and hormonal influences on blood pressure. This type of low blood pressure also affects athletes who are able to adapt to various intensities during training. Primary low blood pressure typically does not cause any problems for the individual, and can even help protect him or her from a number of serious illnesses related to high blood pressure.
Secondary Low Blood Pressure
Secondary low blood pressure has known causes. Orthostatic hypotension is a condition classified under secondary low blood pressure.
- Orthostatic hypotension is a condition that can be completely natural and not be accompanied by an illness. It is low blood pressure occurring due to rapid changes in positions such as from sitting or lying down, to suddenly standing up. It is most common in the younger population, however orthostatic hypotension can also affect individuals above the age of 65, causing falls and an increase in illnesses. The cause of such cases is too high a dose of medication for high blood pressure, a worsened reaction to changes in blood pressure due to damaged arterial walls from lipid and calcium plaque or a damaged nervous system as a result of other illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes or alcoholism.
Some patients experience a drop in blood pressure after eating, and blood pressure drops naturally when sleeping.
- Low blood pressure can also be caused by diseases affecting the heart, blood vessels or endocrine system - a system of glands with internal secretion that includes the pancreas, thyroid gland, adrenal glands and the pituitary gland. Glands of the endocrine system produce hormones influencing blood pressure. The thyroid gland produces a hormone that affects the metabolism of the whole body. A symptom of low thyroid function can also be low blood pressure. Adrenal glands also produce a variety of hormones that help regulate blood pressure, such as adrenalin. A deficiency in adrenalin, as well as a deficiency in any other adrenal hormone, can cause the organism to be unable to react to the stress of increased blood pressure, which can lead to death.
- Other conditions leading to low blood pressure include bleeding, burns, severe vomiting, diarrhea, pregnancy, recovering from an illness requiring prolonged bed rest, heat, and smoking marihuana.
- The most severe cause of low blood pressure is shock. Shock can occur on the basis of a number of causes. It develops during hemorrhaging, burns, widespread bruising, acute pancreatitis, acute myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, poisoning, severe infections or allergic reactions, and many other life-threatening conditions.
Manifestations of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure manifests non-specific symptoms, which means the symptoms can occur as a result of many different illnesses and are therefore not specific to low blood pressure. Low blood pressure may not have any manifestations in some people, therefore they are unaware that they have this condition. Symptoms of low blood pressure include fatigue, sleepiness, headaches, pallor, difficulty concentrating, cold sensitivity and cold extremities. More severe cases of low blood pressure can cause vomiting, the appearance of flashing lights, cold sweats, nausea and temporary loss of consciousness.
Complications of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure causes a decrease in blood supply to organs. Some organs are especially sensitive to this condition, which is why temporary loss of consciousness can occur. This can lead to various falls and injuries. Significant fluctuations in blood pressure (between normal and low levels) can lead to stroke, dementia and other brain disorders. Long term untreated low blood pressure can lead to the failure of organs such as the heart, kidneys or brain.
Diagnosing Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is diagnosed based on medical history, with a focus on whether the condition affected other family members, and on clinical symptoms affecting the patient. The most essential part of the diagnosis is the repeated measurement of the patient's blood pressure with the help of a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure meter. Blood pressure is measured when lying down, sitting and standing. This helps determine the effects of gravity on blood pressure. It is also possible to recommend a patient for Holter monitoring. A Holter meter is a device that attaches to a patient and records blood pressure over the course of 24 hours. The patient must write down all activity that he or she underwent and at what time during the day. The doctor can then compare the records of the Holter meter with the patient's activities, and asses the correlation.
Treating Low Blood Pressure
Treatment of low blood pressure is only necessary if the patient experiences symptoms. Healthy people without symptoms do not require treatment for their low blood pressure. Long-term low blood pressure must be treated in order to prevent complications and organ failure. Treatment for low blood pressure is divided into conservative and pharmacological treatment.
Conservative Treatment for Low Blood Pressure
Conservative treatment for low blood pressure rests in the modifications of lifestyle habits. Individuals with low blood pressure can benefit from regular physical activity, such as swimming, and avoiding rapid changes in positions. For example, it best to stand up from a sitting position slowly. It is also recommended that patients wear elastic compression stocking or bandages on the legs in order to help blood return to the heart. Increasing one's salt intake and drinking enough fluids are also beneficial. Patients with low blood pressure are often told to drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea.
Pharmacological Treatment for Low Blood Pressure
Pharmacological treatment for low blood pressure is based on the administration of medications that affect arterial walls and cause them to narrow, thereby increasing blood pressure. Pharmacological treatment requires the treatment of any underlying illnesses that are causing the decrease in blood pressure in the first place. In this case, low blood pressure is only a symptom of another illness, and thus the increase in blood pressure will not eliminate its cause.
Preventing Low Blood Pressure
The prevention of low blood pressure is based on the avoidance of factors that can lead to this condition. These include primarily, standing up slowly from a sitting position, getting enough exercise and drinking enough fluids. Drinking coffee and black tea can also help prevent low blood pressure, though they should not be consumed too often as this could have the opposite effect.