Health & Personal Care

High blood pressure – symptoms, causes, and how to combat it

High blood pressure – symptoms, causes, and how to combat it

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a condition wherein the pressure of blood rises to levels that are not considered healthy. It has the makings of a cardiovascular disease, and is prevalent among the better part of the country’s population.

When high blood pressure is left untreated for a long time, it can lead to several health conditions such as heart diseases.

Disease overview

High blood pressure is infamously known as ‘silent death’ as it takes place over a period of time and has symptoms that are not instantly recognisable. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), normal blood pressure is anything that is lower than 120/80 (in the case of pregnancy, blood pressure below 120/80 is considered normal.)

If your blood pressure shoots up from the normal range, you must see a doctor who might discuss your lifestyle with you and even recommend some changes in your medication, if any. Patients suffering from other health conditions such as heart diseases or diabetes must seek medications to keep their high blood pressures under control.

The two primary factors that are taken into consideration while measuring blood pressure are:

  • The amount of blood flowing through the blood vessels
  • How much resistance the blood commands when the heart is pumping

When the arteries narrow down, the resistance of the blood increases. This means that the narrower the arteries are, the higher their blood pressure will be. Blood pressure readings usually consist of two numbers: the top number and the bottom one.

The top number, also known as systolic blood pressure, shows the pressure caused to the arteries when the heart is pumping blood. The bottom number, known as the diastolic number, shows the pressure on the arteries when the heart is relaxed. As per the guidelines that had been released by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) in 2017, blood pressure that is 120/80 is considered normal; while that which ranges from 120-129/80 is defined as elevated; and anything measuring 130-139/80-89 or above is high blood pressure. Blood pressure measurements can show different readings through the day. They are determined by various stress factors that include: stress levels of a person, food intake, exercise or the lack of it, and smoking habits.

Diagnosing high blood pressure can be done by taking a reading of the current blood pressure. Checking blood pressure is often a part of a person’s regular visit to a doctor. In case you haven’t reviewed your blood pressure for a while, you can always ask for a check-up.

In cases wherein high blood pressure is recorded, there are chances that the doctor might ask the patient to get more checks done in the following days or weeks. Usually, the diagnosis of hypertension is not based on just one reading. This is because, before the diagnosis, the doctor might want to see whether the problem has been around for a long time. High blood pressure can be a result of many factors such as stress levels. Therefore, the doctor will want to ensure that no such factors play into the elevated blood pressure while you are getting a check-up done.

If the blood pressure continues to stay elevated, a few other tests will be conducted to do away with the possibility of other underlying problems. These tests can be:

  • Urine sample test
  • Cholesterol test
  • Blood test
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to check the heart’s electrical activity
  • An ultrasound to check the health of the heart and kidneys

With the help of these tests, the doctor can eliminate the possibility of any other condition that may be causing high blood pressure. Results of some of these tests can also allow the doctor to check for any potential damage caused by the high blood pressure to other organs.

If you experience breathlessness, dizziness, headache, or pain in the abdomen, back, or chest, then medical precautions should be taken immediately, as these could be an indicator of an increase in blood pressure levels.

In most cases, symptoms of high blood pressure are not easily identifiable. It can take one a fairly long period of time to start noticing symptoms, depending on the severity of the situation. Even then, the signs can be associated with other health conditions. Some of the basic symptoms of high blood pressure are:

  • Difficulty breathing or breathlessness
  • Bleeding nose
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness and discomfort
  • Pain in the chest
  • Changes in vision
  • Blood in urine

These symptoms may not necessarily be found in everyone suffering from high blood pressure but leaving the condition untreated or waiting for symptoms to appear can prove to be life-threatening for the patient.

To be sure that your blood pressure is under check, make sure that you keep taking blood pressure readings every now and then. Usually, all your appointments to the doctor will be having a mandatory blood pressure check, which should help you in knowing your levels regularly.

In case you get routine check-ups done only once a year, it is necessary that you speak with your doctor about the possible risks and chances of high blood pressure and how to keep it in check. If many in your family have had high blood pressure or heart diseases, the doctor might recommend you to have your blood pressure checked at least twice a year. This will help you and your doctor to come up with a treatment plan before the condition gets severe.


Various factors can result in high blood pressure. These include:

  • Sensitivity to salt or excessive salt intake

Blood pressure levels are known to increase or decrease with changes in salt intake. Similarly, consuming salt in increasing amounts increases the risk of high blood pressure.

  • Family history or genetic predisposition

People who have one or both parents suffering from hypertension have double the chances of developing high blood pressure, as compared to those who do not have a similar family history.

  • Artery-related abnormalities

Abnormalities in the artery can lead to an increase in stiffness or resistance in tiny arteries that are called arterioles. This stiffness usually affects people who are obese, old, who do not exercise, or those with a high salt intake.

Causes of high blood pressure based on types

High blood pressure is usually bifurcated into two types—primary and secondary—both of which have varying causes.

  1. Primary hypertension

Primary hypertension, also known as essential hypertension, is the type that develops over time, the cause for which is not easily identifiable. Most people are detected with this type of hypertension. Experts in the field are yet to determine a potential cause that leads to the gradual increase in blood pressure. There are, however, a few common factors that are known to give rise to primary hypertension:

  • Genetics

Certain genes that people carry may make them more vulnerable to high blood pressure. Mutated genes or genetic abnormalities that one may inherit from their parents puts them at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure.

  • Bodily changes

Any significant change that a body goes through holds the potential to give rise to high blood pressure. Aging, for example, can affect the functioning of the kidneys and that, in turn, can interfere with the way our body maintains the balance of fluids and salts. Collectively, this can lead to high blood pressure.

  • Surroundings

If you are not one to maintain a healthy lifestyle (which includes everything from having the right diet to exercising regularly), your body can be an easy target of diseases. Poor lifestyle choices and obesity are two of the main factors that are associated with high blood pressure.

  1. Secondary hypertension

This type of hypertension occurs more rapidly and can be more severe than primary hypertension. Various conditions can be linked to the development of secondary hypertension. These include:

  • Kidney diseases
  • Sleeping disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea
  • Thyroid-related complications
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Side-effects of medications
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Diets with unrestricted amounts of salt and fatty foods


Several factors are taken into consideration while chalking out a treatment plan for high blood pressure. Mainly, they revolve around the type of hypertension the patient has been diagnosed with, and the causes that have led to the condition.

In most cases, primary hypertension can be treated with some alterations in the lifestyle of an individual. However, medical prescriptions might follow if this exercise does not prove to be effective.

If the doctor detects underlying conditions—such as those caused due to previous or existing medications—associated with high blood pressure, they might treat those first.

However, there might also be cases in which medication or lifestyle changes alone will not work. In such cases, the treatment plan might focus on combining the two methods in order to gain control of high blood pressure.

It is important to note that treatment options for high blood pressure are not set in stone, which means that they can shift and change over time. For example, a treatment that may have worked out initially may become ineffective down the line and vice versa. Hence, it is important to periodically check blood pressure levels as well as the kind of treatment applied to them.

A few drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure include diuretics, alpha- and beta-blockers, central agonists, calcium channel blockers, vasodilators, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, among others.

Natural remedies to treat high blood pressure

Having a healthy lifestyle can prove to be extremely beneficial in keeping blood pressure under check. You can adopt a plethora of natural solutions to prevent and fight this condition. Some of them are:

  • Having a healthy diet

If you wish to keep your blood pressure in check, switch to a diet that is heart-healthy. Not only will it lower the risk of hypertension but it will also prevent further complications such as a stroke, heart attack, or heart disease. The DASH diet, which comprises plenty of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and dairy products that are low on fat, has especially been formulated to enable us to maintain balanced blood pressure levels.

  • Exercising regularly

To keep your blood pressure under control, having a healthy body weight is necessary. Not just that, more physical activity will mean reduced stress levels and a healthy heart. Try to carry out moderate physical activity every week for 150 minutes, which translates to approximately 30 minutes of workout five times a week.

  • Maintaining your body weight

Obesity and being overweight are some of the primary causes of high blood pressure. Therefore, it is important to retain a healthy body weight. This can be done by following a healthful diet and regular physical activity.

  • Reducing stress levels

Exercising regularly and practising mindfulness have a lot of potential to reduce stress. In addition to this, you can use several other methods, such as massages and deep breathing, to bring down stress levels.

  • Adopting an overall healthy lifestyle

In order to have a controlled blood pressure, it is crucial to adopt a cleaner and conscious lifestyle. One activity that encourages high blood pressure is smoking as cigarettes contain chemicals that cause damage to the tissues in the body and harden the blood vessels. It is also advisable to put a stop to alcohol consumption.

Foods to have

Some dietary recommendations to fight high blood pressure include:

  • Lessening the intake of dietary sodium

People who have high blood pressure should limit their intake of sodium to one teaspoon in a day, according to the AHA.

  • Reducing intake of sweets

Sweets are packed with calories and close to no nutritional value. They actively contribute to body weight, which, in turn, leads to complications in blood pressure levels.

Editors Choice