What is Hypertension?

cardiogram Hypertension, Medical Conditions

Hypertension (or high blood pressure) is increasingly common in our world. For instance, in the U.S. alone, nearly one in every three adults has it. That’s a pretty startling number. And of all hypertension cases, about 30% may be attributed to obesity.

Thankfully, it is manageable. And some simple lifestyle changes can help immensely. Whether you’re looking to manage existing hypertension, or prevent it altogether, focusing on eating a healthy diet and adding exercise to your day can set you up for success.

What exactly is Hypertension?

To understand hypertension, also known as high blood pressure (HBP), let’s first get clear about what blood pressure (BP) itself is. Every time our heart beats, it’s pushing blood through a multitude of blood vessels. This “push” creates a certain amount of pressure. So, blood pressure is the amount of force exerted by your blood against the blood vessel walls. Hypertension then occurs when that amount of force is regularly too high.1

Of course, anytime you get a blood pressure reading, you see two numbers. That’s because there are two types of pressure being measured:

  • Systolic pressure: The top number in a BP reading. Indicates how much pressure is exerted by your heart while it’s actively beating.
  • Diastolic pressure: The bottom number in a BP reading. Indicates how much pressure remains in your arteries between heart beats.

For diagnostic purposes, hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg or higher, or a diastolic blood pressure of 80 mmHg or higher.

Hypertension Puts You at Risk for CVD

When your blood pressure is consistently high, over time, the amount of force being exerted takes a toll on your heart and blood vessels. Because they are consistently having to work harder, they also wind up becoming less efficient. The constant excessive pressure can also create small tears along artery walls, leaving you more susceptible for plague buildup.1 And of course, the longer this goes on, the more damage is done, which can raise blood pressure even further. You can see then how this can easily become a slippery slope.

There are also many other potential risks that come with hypertension, including multiple forms of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease and/or failure
  • Loss of vision
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Metabolic syndrome

Which Factors Play into Hypertension?

There are several factors that play a part in hypertension, such as genetics. The exact role genetics play in blood pressure is still being studied. But it is known that we tend to inherit a core blood pressure value. Somefamilies show a genetic predisposition for low blood pressure, while others for normal blood pressure, and some for high blood pressure.

However, it’s also known that these core blood pressure values can be influenced by external factors. For example, in general, as your body mass index (BMI) increases, so does your risk for hypertension. Hence why obesity is a factor. Other factors that increase the risk of developing hypertension include:

  • Age
  • Insulin resistance
  • High sodium intake
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Low potassium intake
  • Low calcium intake

Hypertension is Manageable Through Diet and Exercise

Because there are several external factors that can contribute to your likelihood of developing hypertension, that also means combating these factors can help to prevent or manage it. There are simple changes you can make today to lower your risk of developing the disease, or to lower your risk of existing hypertension creating further harm.

A great place to start is focusing on eating a healthy diet rich in potassium and calcium, and adding movement to your day. And of course, making sure you’re regularly seeing and talking to your physician, and following their recommendations.

Using Cardiogram for Management and Prevention

The Cardiogram app offers multiple tools that can be used to help manage and/or prevent hypertension.

Form Heart Healthy Habits: In your 'Habits' section, you'll find heart healthy habits that you can enroll in. To help prevent or manage hypertension specifically, enroll in one that keeps you accountable for engaging in more movement, like a daily bike ride or daily walk.

Exercise in Your Optimal Zone: By creating workouts, you're able to see how long you were in each different heart rate zone during your workout. By ensuring you're getting enough time in the proper zones each week, you're lowering your risk of hypertension, or aiding your heart in managing preexisting high blood pressure.

Journal Daily: You can use the journal section to track your moods, foods and changes in your blood pressure readings. You can also completely customize the "symptoms" in your journal entries, and track any symptom you'd like!