High Blood Pressure Science, Physics, and Tips for Management
It seems that everyone gets high blood pressure as they age. Find out about the science and physics of this condition, see if you have any risk factors, learn how it is treated, and review these tips for blood pressure management.
Blood Pressure Physics
Hypertension (the medical name for high blood pressure) is very common and occurs when the force of your blood against the artery walls reaches a dangerous level - a pressure high enough that it can cause a number of health problems. Blood pressure follows simple physics and is a function of the amount of blood pumped by your heart as it relates to the amount of resistance to flow in your arteries. So, if your heart is working harder, and your arteries narrow, you will get hypertension. Hypertension, often called a silent disease, may exist for decades without presenting any symptoms to identify its presence. Nonetheless, it can greatly increase your risk of developing serious health problems, to include heart attack or stroke. The good news is that it is easy to detect, and in most cases, able to be controlled with help from your doctor (Mayo Clinic, 2012).
Symptoms and Checks
Although most people with hypertension experience no telling symptoms, a few individuals may experience an increased incidence of headache, dizziness or nosebleeds than is typical for them. Since hypertension usually asymptomatic, it is critical to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Experts recommend checks at least every 2 years after age 18 and more frequently if you have a history of hypertension or risk factors for cardiovascular disease. While there are often other opportunities to get your blood pressure assessed, such as at a pharmacy or health fair, these results should be looked at with some discretion since the measurement may not be as accurate as that can be obtained by your doctor (Mayo Clinic, 2012).
Blood Pressure Controllers
While the idea of increased blood pumping and/or narrowing arteries is straight forward, the science behind it is anything but. Rather, the root causes of hypertension are complicated. Blood pressure is controlled by many things. These include:
• chemical mediators in your blood
• the reactivity of your blood vessels
• the actual volume of blood in your body
• the diameter of your blood vessels; the viscosity of your blood
• the volume of blood pumped with each beat of your heart
• the elastic characteristics of your blood vessels
The Road to Complicated Hypertension
It can take some time for hypertension to fully develop in a person. After a sometimes long and aymptomatic period, the disease progresses and becomes fully established as complicated hypertension. It is at this phase that target organ damage to blood vessels, the heart, kidneys, eye and nervous system can occur. The slow and sometimes insidious nature of the progression of this disease and its asymptomatic nature both make careful monitoring of blood pressure essential. The types of hypertension include:
• Pre-Hypertension: The road to complicated hypertension begins as a condition called pre-hypertension in people aged 10-30 years. At this point, the cause is typically increased output from the heart.
• Early Hypertension – This is found in persons aged 20-40 years, when increased resistance in the blood vessels becomes important.
• Established Hypertension – A form of elevated blood pressure typically seen in people aged 30-50 years.
• Complicated Hypertension – The end form of elevated blood pressure, seen in persons aged 40-60 years.
Check your Risk Factors
According to a 2011 report from the US Centers for Disease Control, the overall incidence of hypertension in American adults over the time period 2005-2008 was nearly 30%. With that said, higher incidences of hypertension were seen in people over the age of 45 years, those with less education, and people of less affluence. Others at risk include:
• Non-hispanic blacks (42%)
• US born individuals (31%)
• Diabetics (57%)
• People 65 years of age and older who are dependent on public health insurance (32%)
• Obese individuals (40%)
• The disabled (39%)
(Centers for Disease Control, 2011)
Hypertension causes Heart Disease, Stroke, Dementia and Kidney Disease
High blood pressure researcher Fry published an important study after he followed the outcomes of 700 hypertensive people over a period of 25 years. Serious complications or death occurred in over 400 of these research subjects, and of these 400, half of them suffered cardiovascular complications (coronary artery disease or heart failure) and stroke. Many people with hypertension also experienced significant dementia (possibly linked to stroke) and kidney disease.
5 Tips for Hypertension Management
The root cause of hypertension is complicated, and so is its treatment. Managing hypertension requires changes in behavior and sometimes medication. An individual can do a combination of many things to treat their hypertension. The multi-pronged treatment approach includes diet changes, medication and exercise.
1. Quit smoking. Smoking decreases arterial width and contributes to elevations in blood pressure.
2. Reduce daily stressors. Stress leads to hypertension and is easily avoided.
3. Exercise more. Physical activity helps lower blood pressure
4. Watch your diet - avoid sugars, fats and sodium. These substances contribute to the development of high blood pressure.
5. Take your prescribed medications. If your doctor gives you a medicine, you should take it as advised for blood pressure control.
(Mayo Clinic, 2012)
New Nerve Altering Procedure for High Blood Pressure
While many people are able to control their hypertension using behavior modification or currently available medication, there are always some who just cannot seem to get it down and keep it down. A new procedure for these people, called renal denervation, could help. To conduct this procedure, doctors make a small cut in an artery in the groin region, and then thread a device up the artery to the kidney. The machine then fires short bursts of radio waves designed to deaden nerves in the kidney. When these nerves are overly stimulated, they cause the body to retain too much sodium, so de-activating them allows the body to retain less salt, resulting in lower blood pressure. Preliminary results show that renal denervation works (Esler, et al, 2012).
emedicine (2013). Pathophysiology of hypertension. Retrieved from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1937383-overview
Esler MD, Krum H, Schlaich M. Renal sympathetic denervation for treatment of drug-resistant hypertension: one-year results from the Symplicity HTN-2 randomized, controlled trial. Circulation. 2012; 18; 126:2976-82
Fry J. Deaths and complications from hypertension. J R Coll Gen Pract. 1975; 25: 489–494.
Keenan NL & Rosendorf KA. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2011; 60:94-97
Mayo Clinic (2013). High blood pressure. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/DS00100
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