In 2022, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated the number of visits to physician offices with essential hypertension (HTN) being the primary diagnosis was over 56 million, and it caused over one million visits to the emergency room. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, or high blood pressure as the condition is more commonly known, you are not alone!
This series on hypertension will focus on explaining how the cardiovascular system works, understanding blood pressure readings, the causes of hypertension, understanding your numbers, taking blood pressure correctly, lifestyle changes, and the treatment and management of the condition.
How Does the Circulatory System Work?
For your body to function properly, your tissues and organs need the oxygenated blood that your circulatory system carries throughout the body. The beats of our heart create pressure that pushes blood through our arteries, veins, and capillaries. This pressure, or blood pressure, 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 (bottom number) is created as the heart rests between heartbeats. These two numbers are represented in a blood pressure reading.
Let’s Discuss Blood Pressure Readings
The American Heart Association’s blood pressure guideline chart is a good source for identifying the ranges of blood pressure.
Elevations in blood pressure, on occasion, may be common if a person is experiencing stress but if your blood pressure remains at that elevated level or increases, it is important to have a discussion with your health care provider. They may decide to monitor your blood pressure regularly or begin a treatment plan.
Hypertension occurs when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high. Hypertension falls into three categories.
Hypertension Stage 1
Hypertension Stage 1 is when blood pressure consistently ranges from 130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage, your healthcare provider is likely to prescribe lifestyle changes, daily monitoring through remote services, and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases (ASCVD)such as heart attack or stroke.
Hypertension Stage 2
Hypertension Stage 2 is when blood pressure is consistently ranging 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, your healthcare provider is likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes.
This stage of high blood pressure requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and then test your blood pressure again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your health care provider immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis. With blood pressure this high, you could also experience signs of possible organ damage. Signs of organ damage include chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness or weakness, changes in vision, or difficulty speaking. DO NOT WAIT TO SEE YOUR PHYISICIAN. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.
Where Does the Damage Start?
With hypertension, damage starts in your arteries and heart. High blood pressure increases the workload of the heart and blood vessels causing them to work harder and perform less efficiently. Over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure can damage the delicate tissues. Bad cholesterol or LDL forms plaque along tiny tears in the artery walls, signifying the start of atherosclerosis. The more the plaque and damage increase, the narrower the insides of the arteries become, raising blood pressure and starting a vicious circle that further harms your arteries, heart, and the rest of your body. This can ultimately lead to other conditions ranging from arrhythmia to heart attack, and stroke.
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 RPM Healthcare 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.