Relieving the Pressure of Hypertension: Causes and Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 48% of American adults suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension, and it remains the major cause of ischemic heart disease, heart failure, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and vascular dementia. To reduce your risk of experiencing health episodes due to high blood pressure, it is imperative to be aware of your blood pressure, speak with your physician, and know the risks and the causes. 

If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you are not alone! This article is the third in a series that will focus on explaining how our cardiovascular system works, understanding blood pressure readings, taking your blood pressure correctly, the causes of hypertension, lifestyle changes, and the treatment and management of the condition.  

Understanding Your Blood Pressure 

It is important to know your blood pressure. The beats of our heart create pressure that pushes blood through our arteries, veins, and capillaries. This pressure is your blood pressure and is the result of two forces: Systolic and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure (top number) occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries of the circulatory system. Diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is created as the heart rests between heartbeats. View the American Heart Association “Blood Pressure Categories” chart.  

It is important to speak with your health care provider and address a treatment plan for any stage of hypertension, but it is imperative to seek medical attention for blood pressure that exceeds 180/120 mm Hg. With blood pressure this high, you could also experience chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness or weakness, changes in vision, or difficulty speaking. DO NOT WAIT TO SEE YOUR PHYSICIAN. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. 

Causes and Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure 

Now that we have knowledge of what is considered hypertension, let’s look at the causes of and risk factors associated with hypertension, keeping in mind the condition may have no symptoms. It is critical to be aware of a high blood pressure reading along with any combination of the following factors: 

  • Being overweight. Knowing your body mass index (BMI) can help determine if you are overweight. To determine your BMI, use a BMI calculator.  
  • The use of excess salt in your dietary intake. 
  • Not getting the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.  
  • Inadequate amount of daily exercise.  
  • Consumption of alcohol in excess. 
  • Not drinking enough water. 
  • Smoking. 
  • Exposure to excessive stress. 
  • Being over the age of 65. 
  • Family history of high blood pressure. 
  • Ethnicity. 
  • Limited resources to healthcare services.  

After meeting with your health care provider, they can determine if you have hypertension or if you may have an underlying health condition that causes high blood pressure, such as: 

  • Kidney disease.  
  • Diabetes. 
  • Long-term kidney infections. 
  • Sleep apnea. 
  • Hormone conditions. 
  • Lupus. 
  • Scleroderma. 

If you have any of the previously mentioned risk factors, again, it is critical to know your blood pressure. You can determine that by doing the following:  

  • Schedule and keep your health appointments.  
  • Services such as remote patient monitoring can help in monitoring your blood pressure and securely transmit this data to your physician or electronic medical record. 
  • Supermarkets and drug stores often have blood pressure machines for public use. If you use these devices, it is important to record the date, time and the reading. You can put this information in an app on your phone or bring a pocketsize notebook to record the reading.  
  • Many hospitals and community health programs offer free blood pressure screenings. You can find these events on social media sites, hospital or agency websites, and if your community has a local printed paper, you may find it there. Again, it is important to record the date, time, and reading to share with your health care provider. 

It is important to also discuss the medications and supplements you are taking with your provider. The following medications and supplements may affect your blood pressure: 

  • Contraceptive pill
  • Steroids
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Naproxen
  • Some cough and cold medicines
  • Some herbal supplements
  • Recreational drugs
  • Select serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors – antidepressants

If you are experiencing high blood pressure, have any of the above health or dietary factors, and are taking medications and supplements that can affect your blood pressure, it is important to make an appointment with your health provider.  

As part of living a healthier life, RPM Healthcare offers remote patient monitoring and care coaching services for those with high blood pressure and other health conditions. This weekly series on hypertension, the RPM365 platform, and care coaches are aimed at working with you to achieve a healthy lifestyle and prevent heart attack, stroke, and other health conditions that can affect your everyday life.

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