Blood is carried from your heart to all your body’s tissues and organs in vessels, called arteries. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries.
High blood pressure (Hypertension) is defined as either:
- a systolic pressure consistently at 140 or higher; or
- a diastolic pressure consistently at 90 or higher.
Description of high blood pressure (hypertension)
Each time your heart beats (about 60 to 70 times a minute at rest) it pumps blood out into your arteries. When the heart is pumping the blood, it is called systolic pressure. When the heart is resting or in between beats, your blood pressure falls; this is the diastolic pressure.
A normal blood pressure is less than 130 (systolic)/85 (diastolic).
High normal blood pressure is a systolic from 131-139 and a diastolic from 85-89.
The higher the pressure over 120/80, the higher the risk of developing cardiovascular complications. Studies have shown that the association of risk of dying of a heart attack with different levels of blood pressure rises as blood pressure rises – the higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk.
Most people develop high blood pressure during their lifetime. Left untreated, high blood pressure can damage the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain. High blood pressure is a factor in 68 percent of all first heart attacks and 75 percent of all first strokes.
If high blood pressure is left untreated, it can cause:
Enlarged heart – If the heart has to work harder and longer, it tends to become larger. Eventually, the heart muscles stretch too much or get too thick, and the blood supply from the coronary arteries becomes inadequate. The heart no longer functions, blood is not pumped into the back and the heart fails.
Stroke – As the blood pressure in the brain increases, damage can occur in the lining of blood vessels, forming aneurysms (weakened areas in the blood vessel that may balloon or rupture). When an aneurysm ruptures, this causes a stroke. Possible paralysis, loss of bodily function and motor skills are the result.
Uremia (failure of the kidneys to function properly) – Continued high blood pressure causes narrowing and thickening of the arteries. This reduces the amount of fluid that the kidney can filter out and thus, a build up of waste products occurs.
Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) – The higher the blood pressure, the faster the plaque (collections of fatty material) accumulates in the artery walls.
Heart attack – If one of the coronary arteries that supplies blood to the heart is closed off due to atherosclerosis, portions of the heart muscles are damaged and a heart attack occurs.
Vision loss – High blood pressure can cause blood clots or ruptures in the arterioles in the retina, leading to reduced vision or blindness.
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