Pressure on arteries when blood is being pumped through your circulatory system is known as blood pressure. When blood pressure is measured the result is supplied in two numbers; one over another. The top number, systolic, is the higher number, is the pressure the blood exerts in the artery when the heart muscle is beating. The diastolic pressure, the bottom number in the reading, is the pressure the blood exerts in the artery in between heart beats, while the heart muscle is relaxing.
What number is more important?
Normally, more attention is given to the top number (systolic blood pressure) given it’s history as a indicatory of cardiovascular disease for individuals over 50 years old. The majority of people see an increase of their systolic blood pressure throughout their life due to increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term plaque build-up in the arteries, and increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure (hypertension) is known as a silent killer. Why? Hypertension isn’t accompanied by any warning signs or symptoms and yet it contributes to nearly 1,000 deaths per day in the United States. That said, it’s extremely important to have your blood pressure measured regularly. It’s wise to get your blood pressure checked at least every two years starting at age 18. The doctor’s office isn’t the only place to check it though. Most drugstores and health resource fairs will allow you to measure your blood pressure for free, however, take the results with a grain of salt since the accuracy isn’t always precise.
Blood pressure can fluctuate based on the amount of stress an individual is under as well as the how often they’re exercising.
If your doctor notices a higher blood pressure than normal they may take several readings over time and/or have you monitor your blood pressure at home before you’re considered to have hypertension. If readings remain 140/90 mm Hg or above, your doctor will likely want to begin a treatment program that may include prescription medication and lifestyle changes.
Dangers of uncontrolled blood pressure
Other than the ultimate danger, death, hypertension can also cause issues with many of your body’s systems:
- Arteries: Hypertension causes damage to cells of the arteries’ inner lining and over time can rupture, causing an aneurysm.
- Heart: Heart failure and coronary artery disease.
- Brain: Stroke, dementia, cognitive impairment, transient ischemic attack (TIA).
- Kidneys: Kidney failure, kidney artery aneurysm and kidney scarring.
- Eyes: Nerve damage, eye blood vessel damage and fluid build-up under the retina.
- Sexual dysfunction: Significant decrease in blood flow to sexual organs.
- Peripheral arterial disease: Blood flow blockage to lower extremities.