When you visit your doctor, the first thing they often do is check your blood pressure.
This is an essential step because your blood pressure measures how hard your heart is working.
Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist. It is composed of four chambers and contains four valves. Valves open and close to allow blood to move through the chambers and in and out of your heart.
According to the American Heart Association, your heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute or about 100,000 times per day. As it hits, the blood is forced against the walls of your arteries.
Your systolic blood pressure is the top number in your reading. It measures the force of blood against the walls of your arteries as your ventricles, the two lower chambers of your heart, contract and expel blood to the rest of your body.
Blood pressure ranges
Your blood pressure can be expected, high or low. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and low blood pressure is called hypotension. The American Heart Association describes the different blood pressure ranges for adults as:
- Standard / Medium: less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic.
- She elevated: 120-129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic.
- Stage 1 hypertension: 130-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic.
- Hypertension in Stage 2: at the least 140 systolic or diastolic 90 to the least.
- Hypertensive crisis: more than 180 systolic and more than 120 diastolic.
- Hypotension: It can be 90 or less systolic or 60 or less diastolic, but these numbers can vary because symptoms help determine when blood pressure is too low.
Your doctor can diagnose high blood pressure if your systolic or diastolic is high or if both numbers are high. They can analyze low blood pressure by monitoring your systolic and diastolic numbers, along with assessing your symptoms and age and what medications you are taking.
Risk factors for high and low blood pressure
Both high blood pressure and low blood pressure need to be controlled. In general, it is much more common to have high blood pressure. According to the American College of Cardiology, nearly half of adults in the United States now fit the new definition of high blood pressure.
Not surprisingly, the risk factors for these two conditions are very different.
Risk factors for high blood pressure
Your gender affects your risk for high blood pressure. The American Heart Association states that men are at higher risk of high blood pressure than women aged 64. But at age 65 and older, women are at higher risk than men. Your risk is also higher if:
- You have a close relative with high blood pressure.
- You are African American.
- You are overweight or obese.
- Have diabetes
- Have high cholesterol
- You have kidney disease.
Your lifestyle also affects your level of risk. Your risk is higher if:
- You don’t do a lot of physical activity.
- You experience chronic stress.
- Drink too much alcohol.
- You smoke.
- Their diet is high in salt, sugar, and fat.
Sleep apnea is an often-overlooked risk factor for high blood pressure. It is a condition that causes you to stop breathing or have ineffective breathing one or more times during sleep.
When your breathing is inadequate, your oxygen levels drop, and your blood vessels constrict. This increases your blood pressure. When sleep apnea is persistent, this increase in blood pressure can continue during the day when breathing is normal.
Proper treatment of sleep apnea will help lower blood pressure.
Risk factors for low blood pressure
If you’re older than 65, you may be at risk for orthostatic hypotension, a condition in which your blood pressure drops when you switch from sitting to standing. Endocrine problems, neurological diseases, heart problems, heart failure, and anemia can also cause.
You may also be at risk for low blood pressure if you become dehydrated or take certain prescription medications, such as:
- Medicines for high blood pressure.
- Medications for anxiety or depression
- Erectile dysfunction medications.
Low blood pressure can also be caused by various heart, hormonal, or nervous system problems. These include:
- Thyroid problems
- The pregnancy.
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Abnormal heart valves
- Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).
- Spinal cord injury.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Parkinson’s disease.
Treatments for high or low blood pressure
There are a variety of treatments available for high or low blood pressure.
Treatment of high blood pressure
Lifestyle changes are recommended as the first step in treating any stage of high blood pressure. These changes can include:
- Leave unhealthy foods from your diets, such as excess sugars and saturated fats.
- Start eating more heart-healthy foods like lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
- Reducing sodium in your diet.
- Consumption of more water.
- Increase daily physical activity.
- Give up smoking.
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Reduce alcohol consumption (to one or fewer drinks per day for women and two or less per day for men).
- Learn to manage better and control stress.
- Check and monitor your blood pressure regularly.
In addition to these steps, consider whether you are taking medications that could be increasing your blood pressure, such as cold medications, diet pills, or medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Your doctor may recommend stopping that medication, changing medications, or adjusting your dosage.
However, lifestyle changes and medication adjustments may not be enough to lower blood pressure numbers. If that’s the case, or if you have stage 2 hypertension or have experienced a hypertensive crisis, your doctor will likely prescribe one or more blood pressure medications.
Commonly prescribed medications include:
- Calcium channel blockers.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs).
This medication will be prescribed in addition to ongoing lifestyle changes.
Treatment of low blood pressure
Treatment for low blood pressure depends on the cause of the condition. If a drug is causing your low blood pressure, your doctor may change your dose of that drug or stop your treatment with it.
If your low blood pressure is caused by an infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat the disease. Or, if it is caused by anemia, your doctor may prescribe iron or vitamin B-12 as a supplement.
If a medical condition or disease is causing your low blood pressure, your doctor needs to identify the specific cause. Proper management of the problem can help improve or limit episodes of low blood pressure.
Complications of high or low blood pressure
High blood pressure does not cause symptoms unless you are in a hypertensive crisis. It is known as a “silent killer” because it silently damages blood vessels and organs, and you may not realize you have it until the damage is done. Unmanaged high blood pressure can lead to:
- Heart failure.
- Heart attacks.
- Eyesight problems.
- Sight loss.
- Kidney disease.
- Sexual dysfunction
On the other hand, pressure or blood that is too low will cause symptoms. Symptoms or complications that can occur from low blood pressure may include:
- Chest pain.
- Loss of balance
- Inability to concentrate
- Blurry vision.
- Shallow breathing
- Difficulty breathing.
- Cold and clammy skin
- Bluish skin.
Preventing blood pressure problems
The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent blood pressure problems.
Preventing high blood pressure
You can prevent blood pressure problems before they start or limit your risk by following a healthy lifestyle. Following the steps listed above under “Treating High or Low Blood Pressure” can help protect you from developing high blood pressure.
Also, if you suspect you have sleep apnea symptoms, such as severe snoring, daytime sleepiness, or restless sleep, talk to your doctor about a sleep study. Sleep apnea is believed to affect at least 25 million American adults.
Research has shown that using a CPAP machine while sleeping can lower blood pressure in people with sleep apnea.
Preventing low blood pressure
To help prevent low blood pressure, drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to prevent dehydration. Get up slowly from a sitting position to help prevent orthostatic hypotension.
Also, notify your doctor immediately if you feel that a medication is causing your blood pressure to drop. There may be another drug option that will have less impact on your blood pressure numbers.
Also, if you have been diagnosed with any medical conditions known to be related to low blood pressure, speak with your doctor. Discuss what symptoms to look out for and how to manage your situation best.
For many people, high or low blood pressure is manageable. For high blood pressure, your outlook is better if you take lifestyle measures that support overall heart health and follow your doctor’s recommendations for medications to control your blood pressure.
For low blood pressure, it’s essential to identify the cause and stick with recommended treatment plans.
Because high blood pressure does not cause symptoms, it is essential to measure your blood pressure regularly once you have been diagnosed with it. This is true even if you are taking blood pressure medications.