What to do when your blood pressure is too high?

Unsettling symptoms like headache, chest pain, fatigue or shortness of breath could indicate elevated blood pressure (BP). When in doubt about your well-being, it is always a good idea to check your blood pressure, which may provide a valuable insight into what may be going on with your body.

Interpretation of the result

Blood pressure is always given as a ratio of the so-called systolic blood pressure (SBP), which corresponds to the blood pressure exerted on the arterial walls when the heart contracts, to diastolic blood pressure (DBP), exerted during the period of heart relaxation. The higher the pressure, the greater the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

An elevated blood pressure right after a workout session is quite normal. A sudden, unexpected or prolonged increase in blood pressure may, however, suggest a need for medical intervention.

The ideal blood pressure measurement will read below 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). According to the guidelines of the International Society of Hypertension (ISH), blood pressure at 140/90 mm Hg or above taken at a doctor’s office is treated as hypertension. For home BP readings, the threshold for hypertension is 135/85 mm Hg. In the most extreme cases, when your BP is above 180/110 mm Hg, you should urgently seek doctor’s help.

By itself, elevated blood pressure does not usually cause noticeable symptoms, unless it coincides with an ongoing disease. As a risk factor for life-threatening conditions like cardiovascular disease, kidney failure or aneurysm, a high BP should never be disregarded.

Controlling your blood pressure

Blood pressure is subject to changes over the course of day and depending on your physical activity. Therefore, every now and then you may find your blood pressure to be temporarily elevated. If this is the case, it is best to relax and breathe steadily for a few minutes. Measurement can then be repeated to see if the situation was resolved.

Elevated blood pressure readings recurring over a longer period of time could be indicative of a need for change in your current lifestyle. A shift towards a more balanced, healthy diet could largely benefit your health metrics. It could also help you lose a few pounds, which incidentally is another way of defense against undesired blood pressure spikes.

The problem is not an old person’s disease. On the contrary – 20 and 30 year olds are also at risk and have the most at stake. Adverse aftermaths of hypertension accumulate over the course of years and decades. If untreated, today’s youngest adults may have to face serious, oftentimes lethal comorbidities soon after reaching their middle age.

Call for action

The so-called Grade 1 hypertension (SBP 140-159 mm Hg and/or DBP 90-99 mm Hg) may not necessitate pharmacological treatment unless it is accompanied by other cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol level or diabetes.

Blood pressure at or above 160/100 mm Hg (Grade 2 hypertension) requires pharmacotherapy. Still a worthy investment considering the magnitude of expenses and stress associated with development of comorbidities resulting from elevated blood pressure.

Having blood pressure back under control is a complex, long-term process which may require administration of up to four different medicines.

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