Last month, in What Seniors Need To Know Now About Hypertension, we discussed the condition of hypertension, how it’s measured, and the problems it causes for the body. Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure (HBP), which damages the walls of arteries, veins and blood vessels in the major organs of the body. People with HBP can suffer debilitating strokes, heart attacks, and aneurysms, with few to no symptoms or warning. Thirty to fifty percent of Americans live with high blood pressure, so caregivers, home care aides and loved ones should know the risk factors, prevention strategies and treatments of HBP.

Who Is At Risk For High Blood Pressure?

Last month we learned that the border between normal and high blood pressure shifted in 2017 for some doctors and some kinds of patients, from a systolic pressure reading of 140 down to a reading of 130. So the number of U.S. patients who have high blood pressure varies, depending on who you ask and which group of medical authorities they follow. Currently, at least 30 percent and possibly as many as 50 percent of Americans have high blood pressure. That seems like a huge number of people, until you learn who is at risk for developing high blood pressure. WebMD says those at risk are people who:

  • Have family members who have high blood pressure
  • Smoke
  • Are African-American
  • Are pregnant
  • Take birth control pills
  • Are over the age of 35
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are not active
  • Drink alcohol excessively
  • Eat too many fatty or salty foods
  • Have sleep apnea

How Do You Get High Blood Pressure?

Genetic, situational (ie age, gender or pregnancy), behavioral, nutritional and environmental (stress) risk factors for HBP represent the large majority of cases. Cases of high blood pressure whose underlying cause can’t be found are called essential hypertension, which affects nearly 95% of all HBP patients. Though specific causes can’t be found in essential hypertension, behaviors like excessive drinking, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and eating a fatty or salty diet can be controlled to some extent. Addressing one or more of these factors can control high blood pressure and reduce risk, even if a direct line of causation can’t be found or drawn. The other risk factors like chronic kidney disease, stress, adrenal and thyroid disorders, and certain medications are direct causes of HBP. This is called secondary hypertension, which afflicts a tiny fraction of all patients.

How Do You Treat High Blood Pressure?

There is no cure for essential high blood pressure, in the sense that prevention and treatment are the only ways to address it. If a patient lapses in either area, then normal blood pressure will climb into the danger zone again. Doctors recommend several lifestyle and diet changes to reduce your risk of stroke, kidney damage, heart disease, and other serious problems. Recommendations to lower the amount of salt in your diet, exercise more, quit smoking, and lose weight can seem burdensome. But if those changes don’t have enough impact, the next step is medications to lower your blood pressure. But even the medications that address essential HBP can cause side effects like diarrhea, nausea, dizziness and a persistent cough. Statins can cause muscle weakness, possibly kidney damage and even type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle and diet changes that reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure seem like better options in comparison. Secondary high blood pressure, caused by a specific conditions like renal artery stenosis, Cushing’s disease, primary hyperaldosteronism, adrenal tumors, and obstructive sleep apnea, can be cured if the underlying condition is cured or medicated.

High blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension, is a condition that plays a role in the emergence of many other serious conditions. HBP doesn’t manifest in any way, outside of regular blood pressure readings. Caregivers, home care aides and loved ones need to watch their numbers carefully, and embrace the healthy lifestyle of prevention.