Hypertension: Keeping the Pressure Off Vascular Disease


Hypertension and Vascular Health

Hypertension (HT), more commonly referred to as high blood pressure (HBP), is one of the leading patient conditions that attributes to the development of vascular disease. Though high blood pressure itself does not cause any symptoms, long term sufferers from HT are put at a major risk for many life-threatening conditions, including coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, stroke or peripheral vascular disease.

Checking Blood Pressure

If you’ve seen a doctor at least once in your lifetime, you’ve more than likely had your blood pressure examined. The process is done by a doctor or specialist, who places an inflatable cuff around your arm, using a pressure-measuring gauge to determine blood pressure. Test readings are given through a pair of numbers – the first number (the higher/top number) is a measure of the compression in arteries when your heart beats, known as systolic pressure, while the second number (the lower/bottom number) is a measure of the compression in your arteries when beats take place, or the diastolic pressure.

Once these numbers are provided, your doctor will tell you the numbers of your blood pressure – if it’s below 120/80 mm Hg (or millimeters of mercury), then your blood pressure is considered normal. However, if your blood pressure numbers reach outside of this range, it means you could fall into one of the three general categories for HBP.

Running the Numbers

If your systolic pressure ranges from 120 to 139 mm Hg, or your diastolic pressure ranges from 80 to 89 mm Hg, your blood pressure registers for Prehypertension – a condition that typically worsens over time. If systolic pressure extends from 140 to 159 mm Hg, or diastolic pressure ranges from 90 to 99 mm Hg, your blood pressure registers for Stage 1 hypertension. If systolic pressure continues to extend between 160 and 179 mm Hg, or diastolic pressure ranges from 100 to 109 mm Hg, then your blood pressure registers for Stage 2 hypertension. Anything over 180 mm Hg for systolic pressure or 110 mm Hg for diastolic pressure registers for Stage 3 hypertension, and is considered hypertensive emergency.

Prehypertension vs. Hypertension Stages

Prehypertension is the onset of early findings of HT that hasn’t yet developed into Stage 1 or Stage 2. When prehypertension is developed, lifestyle changes are often prescribed to patients who are diagnosed, such as increasing exercise, or managing body weight by adding more fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products into their diet.

If Stage 1 is reached, however, more severe measures are taken. Prehypertension lifestyle changes are kept, and medication is taken to reduce blood pressure, as well as prevent the risk of stroke and heart disease. A number of drug classes can be prescribed, depending on your medical history: Thiazide diuretics, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers. If Stage 2 is reached, two-drug therapy for the previous five classes is often prescribed, with some experimentation needing to be utilized for the best results.

Primary vs. Secondary Hypertension

Additionally, there is a difference between the causes of primary and secondary hypertension. Most diagnoses of high blood pressure are considered primary hypertension, meaning that a single cause of the disease cannot be pinpointed. When describing the condition, your doctor may refer to this as “idiopathic,” meaning the condition arises spontaneously and that the cause is unknown.

Secondary hypertension, on the other hand, is able to be diagnosed from a variety of underlying problems, including, but not limited to: Kidney, adrenal gland or thyroid problems, obstructive sleep apnea, congenital defects in blood vessels, alcohol or chronic alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, primarily from cocaine and amphetamines, or medications such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, some prescription drugs or over-the-counter pain relievers.

Risk Factors & Vascular Health

Some lifestyle risk factors can contribute to the development of either form of hypertension. The development of high blood pressure increases as you age, from not being physically active, being obese or overweight, using tobacco, drinking too much alcohol, having too much sodium in your diet or having high levels of stress, as well as others.

It’s no secret that hypertension can be a contributing factor to a multitude of vascular health problems. In addition to peripheral vascular disease and stroke, as mentioned earlier, those suffering from HT are at a higher risk for developing Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, Mesenteric Ischemia and Renal Artery Stenosis. Additionally, those who suffer from low blood pressure are put at a higher risk of developing a pulmonary embolism, as a result of a Deep Vein Thrombosis.

It’s important to be aware of the ways that hypertension can affect your vascular health, as well as know how you can control the condition’s risk factors to benefit your own life. For more information about how hypertension attributes to the spread and increased risk of vascular disease, consult your physician.