Referred to as the “silent killer”, hypertension or high blood pressure does not really provide evidence that it is present… until it provokes a major cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.
Worse, high blood pressure isn’t just a problem in and of itself, but it also leads to other complications such as stroke, heart attack, chronic heart failure and kidney disease.
While it gives little signs that it’s there, it gives some, nevertheless. One has to be mindful and health conscious to be able to figure out the condition at the onset.
“High blood pressure is the leading controllable [emphasis added] contributor to heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and end-stage renal disease, and contributes significantly to the morbidity and mortality of people with diabetes,” says Randy Wexler, MD, MPH, FAAFP, assistant professor of clinical family medicine at Ohio State University in Columbus.
An Illness Without Symptoms?
One of five adults with high blood pressure still does not know that they have it. Why is this so?
This is because most people with high blood pressure or hypertension have no symptoms, even when their blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. They are simply unaware they have it!
But this condition is not completely without signs or symptoms. One has to pay attention to one’s health, that’s for sure. A healthy diet and lifestyle, coupled with regular visits to the doctor. A regular check up can detect lurking illnesses which do not give signs of their presence, just like hypertension.
What to Look Out For: Early Warning Signs of Hypertension
What is high blood pressure exactly?
It’s a common disease in which blood flows through blood vessels and arteries at higher than normal pressures.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure happens when this force is too high.
Most people who have this condition display zero signs or high blood pressure symptoms, even when their blood pressure readings are at dangerously high levels.
Standard medical treatment for elevated blood pressure includes the prescription of dangerous beta-blockers, ACE inhibitor drugs and diuretics, along with convincing the patient to restrict salt in the diet.
These standard medical treatment are simply for managing the condition but they don’t get to the root of the problem and can actually cause more problems.
When blood pressure is measured, there are two numbers that result, which measures two different pressures. The top number is systolic pressure, the blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. The second or bottom number is diastolic pressure, the blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.
Blood pressure ranges include:
- Normal: Less than 120/80
- Prehypertension: 120–139/80–89
- Stage 1 High Blood Pressure: 140–159/90–99
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above/100 and above
Frequently, there are no high blood pressure symptoms as blood pressure increases, but some warning signs for very high blood pressure can include chest pains, confusion, headaches, ear noise or buzzing, irregular heartbeat, nose bleeds, tiredness, or vision changes.
Complications of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk for dangerous health conditions, such as:
- First heart attack: About seven of every 10 people having their first heart attacks have high blood pressure.
- First stroke: About eight of every 10 people having their first strokes have high blood pressure.
- Chronic heart failure: About seven of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.
- Eye problems: High blood pressure can cause thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes, which can result in vision loss.
- Metabolic syndrome: High blood pressure symptoms increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, a combination of three or more of the following health issues: abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure or low HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- Memory issues: Uncontrolled high blood pressure can affect your ability to think, remember and learn. Trouble with memory or understanding concepts is more common in people with high blood pressure.
- Aneurysm: Increased blood pressure can cause your blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening.
High Blood Pressure vs. Low Blood Pressure
Risk of both low blood pressure and high blood pressure normally increases with age due in part to normal changes during aging. Here are how low and high blood pressure stack up.
High Blood Pressure
Frequently, there are no high blood pressure symptoms as blood pressure increases. Some warning signs for very high blood pressure, however, can include:
- Chest pains
- Ear noise or buzzing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vision changes
Low Blood Pressure
How can you tell if you have low blood pressure, high blood pressure or normal blood pressure?
- Low blood pressure or hypotension: Less than 90/60
- Normal: Less than 120/80
- Prehypertension: 120–139/80–89
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140–159/90–99
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above/100 and above
Here are some stats on low blood pressure:
- Chronic low blood pressure with no symptoms is almost never serious.
- Low blood pressure is concerning when blood pressure drops suddenly and the brain is deprived of an adequate blood supply. This can lead to dizziness or lightheadedness.
- Sudden drops in blood pressure most commonly occur in someone who’s rising from a lying down or sitting position to standing. This kind of low blood pressure is known as postural hypotension or orthostatic hypotension. Another type of low blood pressure can occur when someone stands for a long period of time. This is called neurally mediated hypotension.
- Blood flow to the heart muscle and the brain declines with age, often as a result of plaque buildup in blood vessels.
- Estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of people over age 65 have postural hypotension.
Most doctors consider chronically low blood pressure dangerous only if it causes noticeable signs and symptoms, such as:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting (called syncope)
- Dehydration and unusual thirst
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred vision
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
Low blood pressure can occur with:
- Prolonged bed rest
- Decreases in blood volume
- Certain medications, including diuretics and other drugs that treat hypertension; heart medications such as beta blockers; drugs for Parkinson’s disease; tricyclic antidepressants; erectile dysfunction drugs, particularly in combination with nitroglycerin; narcotics and alcohol. Other prescription and over-the-counter drugs may cause low blood pressure when taken in combination with HBP medications.
- Heart problems
- Endocrine problems
- Severe infection (septic shock)
- Allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) — anaphylactic shock is a sometimes-fatal allergic reaction that can occur in people who are highly sensitive to drugs such as penicillin, certain foods such as peanuts, or to bee or wasp stings. This type of shock is characterized by breathing problems, hives, itching, a swollen throat and a sudden, dramatic fall in blood pressure.
- Neurally mediated hypotension
- Nutritional deficiencies — a lack of the essential vitamins B12 and folic acid can cause anemia and anemic symptoms, which in turn can lead to low blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Symptoms Diet
One of the best natural remedies for high blood pressure is an improved diet. So here are the foods you must avoid. These foods make high blood pressure symptoms worse!
- Alcohol — Narrows arteries and can increase blood pressure. If you’re going to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
- High-sodium foods — No need to fear salting your food, especially when you use good-quality salts, but you definitely want to avoid high-sodium processed and canned foods.
- Trans fats and omega-6 fats — These fats increase inflammation and blood pressure and are found in packaged foods and conventional meats.
- Sugar — High sugar consumption contributes to high blood pressure. Studies have even shown that sugar intake might be more concerning than salt intake when it comes to high blood pressure. (6)
- Caffeine — Too much caffeine can cause an increase in blood pressure. If you’re suffering from high blood pressure, reducing your daily consumption of coffee and other beverages high in caffeine is an easy way to get your blood pressure numbers down and prevent caffeine overdose.
Foods to Eat that Help Heal High Blood Pressure Symptoms
- Mediterranean diet —In general, think Mediterranean when it comes to a helpful diet for high blood pressure symptoms. This diet is very high in fruits, vegetables, seafood and healthy omega-3 fat oils. Some of the best foods you want in your Mediterranean diet are olive oil, wild-caught fish (especially salmon), and a lot of fruits and vegetables, all of which help lower your blood pressure naturally.
- High-potassium foods — According to the American Heart Association, a diet rich in potassium is an important part of controlling blood pressure because it lessens any negative effects of sodium on the body. Potassium balances the effect of sodium and helps lower blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods include things like coconut water, melons, avocados and bananas.
- High-fiber foods — Unprocessed foods high in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, seeds and beans, should be the basis of any healthy diet, especially one looking to lower blood pressure readings.
- Omega-3 rich foods – Consume omega-3 foods like grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, chia seeds and flaxseeds to reduce inflammation.
- Apple cider vinegar — Apple cider vinegar is naturally very high in potassium. It also helps to keep the body alkaline, which can help naturally lower your blood pressure.
- Tea — White tea in particular can actually thin the blood and drastically improve artery function. Drinking white tea several times a day on a consistent basis can actually lower the pressure of your blood and protect the body against one of its common health enemies, stroke. This only works when you drink the tea every day, a couple of times a day.
- Dark chocolate — Dark chocolate is healthy chocolate. Look for a dark chocolate that contains at least 200 milligrams of cocoa phenols, which can reduce blood pressure.
Supplements for High Blood Pressure Symptoms
The mineral magnesium is great because it helps relax your blood vessels and can have an immediate impact on naturally lowering blood pressure (and many people have a magnesium deficiency, which plays into high blood pressure). To start, 500 milligrams daily before bed is a great dose to address your blood pressure issues.
2. Fish Oil
One of the main causes of high blood pressure is inflammation in the arteries over time. Study after study has shown consuming fish oil, which is high in EPA and DHA forms of omega-3 fatty acids, reduces inflammation of the body, which is why fish oil benefits heart health. Taking a high-quality, 1,000-milligram fish oil dose every single day with your meals is one of the best natural ways to lower blood pressure.
3. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 is an antioxidant critical for supporting heart health, and it’s crucial if you’ve ever been on blood pressure or cholesterol-lowering medication. About 200 to 300 milligrams of CoQ10 per day is a great, natural remedy for high blood pressure.
Available in powder form, consumption of cocoa increases your intake of flavonols, which help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. Cocoa is also a natural vasodilator, which means it increases nitric oxide in the blood and widen blood vessels.
Garlic is another natural vasodilator, and if you can’t get enough of it in your diet, then it’s readily available as a supplement in liquid or pill form. A 2016 study showed that aged garlic reduces peripheral and central blood pressure in patients with uncontrolled hypertension. It also has the potential to improve arterial stiffness, inflammation and other cardiovascular markers in patients with elevated levels.
Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure Symptoms
1. Increase Physical Activity and Exercise
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. Ideally, you should engage in some form of physical activity and/or exercise for at least 20 minutes per day to unlock the benefits of exercise. Children and adolescents should get one hour of physical activity every day.
2. Reduce Stress
Yet another reason to reduce stress is its ability to raise blood pressure. But don’t relax by eating more or using tobacco or alcohol. These activities only increase the problem.
For high blood pressure symptoms and good health in general, it’s a great idea to practice daily relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, healing prayer and/or meditation. These natural stress relievers help you relax and reduce your blood pressure.
3. Essential Oils
Essential oils can lower blood pressure by dilating arteries, acting as antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress and by decreasing emotional stress. The best choices when it comes to lowering high blood pressure include neroli, lavender, ylang ylang, sweet marjoram, clary sage and frankincense. You can use these oils in a diffuser. You can also include a few drops in a neutral carrier oil or lotion and massage the mixture on your body.
High Blood Pressure Risk Factors & Root Causes
High blood pressure has a real laundry list of risk factors. The good news is that the majority of these hypertension risk factors are well within your control. They include:
- Age — High blood pressure risk increases as age increases. It’s more common in men through the age of 45. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
- Family history — High blood pressure tends to run in families.
- Race — High blood pressure is especially common among African-Americans and often develops at an earlier age than it does in Caucasians. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack and kidney failure, are more common among African-Americans suffering from high blood pressure.
- Obesity — The higher your body weight, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls and your blood pressure.
- Physical Inactivity— People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity and exercise also increases the risk of being overweight, which are some of the reasons a sedentary lifestyle is dangerous.
- Smoking— Whether it’s smoking or chewing tobacco, both immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily. Additionally, the chemicals in tobacco damage the lining of your artery walls, which causes your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. Secondhand smoke can also raise your blood pressure.
- Too much alcohol — Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than two drinks a day for men and more than one drink a day for women may affect blood pressure negatively.
- Too much sodium in your diet — Too much salt or sodium in your diet causes your body to retain more fluid, which increases blood pressure.
- Too little potassium in your diet — Potassium is a mineral that helps balance the sodium content of your body’s cells. If you don’t consume enough potassium or retain enough potassium, you can accumulate too much sodium in your blood stream. That’s one reason why you want to avoid low potassium.
- Stress — High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure.
- Certain chronic conditions — Certain chronic conditions also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, such as kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea.
- Pregnancy — Sometimes pregnancy can contribute to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is most prevalent in the adult population, but children are also at risk. Sometimes children can experience high blood pressure symptoms that are caused by problems with the heart or kidneys.
However, more and more children who experience high blood pressure are dealing with this chronic issue at a way too young age because of poor lifestyle habits. When I say poor lifestyle habits, I’m referring to an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise, which both directly relate to the increase in childhood obesity and childhood hypertension.
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