The movement of blood throughout our body is an important process. If a part of the body does not receive blood, it could lead to serious complications most especially if it is the brain. At the same time, if the pressure the blood comes with is not normal, it can lead to many other complications. Given its importance, understanding blood pressure and its complications is a necessity.
What is blood pressure?
With every heartbeat, blood is pumping out into your arteries. Given that blood is a viscous substance, it needs pressure to move it into and through the arteries.
This pressure is called blood pressure. Blood pressure is not fixed. It goes up and comes down, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly. This can be because of activities, the food we eat, diseases, or even medications.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure is measured majorly in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). If it is 70 mmHg, it means that the blood at that moment can push 70mmHg of mercury against gravity. It can also be measured in centimeters of water. 1mmHg equals 1.36 centimeters H2.0. There are two numbers in blood pressure results because there are two measurements in blood pressure:
- Systolic pressure: This is the figure that is always above. Systolic pressure is the pressure the heart uses to pump out blood into the arteries. Simply put, it is the pressure the blood exerts to move in the arteries.
- Diastolic pressure: this is the figure that is always below. Diastolic pressure is the pressure at the end of a heartbeat. This period is always like a rest period because the heart is not pumping out blood, but it is receiving. It is always lower than the systolic pressure.
The normal blood pressure is between 90mmHg/60mmHg to 120mmHg/80mmHg.
However, in cases of rapid changes due to medical conditions or a particular situation, a mercury manometer or water barometer cannot be used. Electrical devices called transducers that can record a rapid or immediate change in blood pressure are used. It uses electrical laws of capacitance and inductance. Its results are in lines. Spikes show an elevation or a read of pressure in the blood. If it’s not reading any pressure, the result would be a long horizontal line.
Pathologies of blood pressure
Just like every mechanism in the human body, blood pressure can cause complications and diseases. These complications can either obstruct blood blow to the heart, to the body, to one part of the body or cause a general body effect. There are two major complications in blood pressure, but they are a result of other minor complications. These major complications are:
- High blood pressure: This is commonly known as hypertension. This complication occurs when the heart pumps out blood with too much pressure. The measurement for high blood pressure is above 140/ above 90mmHg. This is a very risky situation as the heart would be easily stressed. High blood pressure depends on age, gender, race, and family history. High blood pressure is found more in men than in women. People around the ages of 44-65 have a higher chance of getting high blood pressure. Blacks and Asians are more susceptible to high blood pressure than other races. If someone in your family has had high blood pressure, it increases your risk of having it too. There are two types of high blood pressure:
- Essential high blood pressure: This high blood pressure is the kind where there is no known cause, it just happens. Most times, there are linked causes of this type of hypertension like a family record, salt sensitivity, age, unhealthy diet, race (citizens of the northern islands of Japan consume large amounts of salts), and others. This is the most common form of high blood pressure.
- Secondary high blood pressure: This type of high blood pressure has a direct cause. The major causes most times are underlying diseases, like kidney disease, and medications. Kidney diseases involving tumors in the adrenal glands, or any abnormality of the adrenal gland affects the blood pressure. This is because the glands would be triggered to produce hormones like adrenaline (which makes the heart pump blood faster, controls the flow of blood in the vessels, controls vasoconstriction, and other blood pressure factors). Adrenaline works in times of fight or flight, but when it is produced under normal conditions it leads to high blood pressure. Medications, like birth control pills that contain estrogen, increase blood pressure. Even medications that constrict blood vessels, increase blood pressure.
Generally, there are no clear symptoms of high blood pressure. Even when the blood pressure is extremely high, the patient most times would not know that his/her life is threatened.
- Low blood pressure: This is also known as hypotension. This happens when your heart pumps blood with very low pressure. In this condition, blood moves with very low pressure. This is very risky as blood might not reach some organs on time. It comes with dizziness and most times as a symptom of an overlying condition. In adults, low blood pressure measurement is anything below 90mmHg/60mmHg. There are several types of low blood pressure:
- Naturally mediated hypotension: Naturally, the blood pressure links the nervous system with other systems of the body. There can be a drop in blood pressure when there is an abnormal change in reflexes between the heart and body. Most times, it occurs when there is an emotional change like shock or sudden fear. It also occurs when children stand in a place for a very long time.
- Orthostatic hypotension: This occurs due to postural change. Like when you stand upside down with your hands for a minute or two, and then you stand straight you would feel dizzy. Also when you sit up straight from sleep, or when you stand still from an awkward position. It is the most prevalent form of low blood pressure. People with Parkinson’s disease and diabetes also randomly and sometimes consistently have low blood pressure. Pregnant women and older people are also susceptible to this condition.
- Postprandial hypotension: This occurs immediately after eating. It is common in old people and people that have autonomic disorders.
- Severe hypotension: This happens during organ shock. Organ shock is when an organ does not receive enough blood due to a serious injury or chronic infection. This is very life-threatening and should be treated on time.
The major symptoms of low blood pressure include:
- Intense body fatigue
- Sweating, even in cold places.
- Hazy vision
Causes of high blood pressure
The following substances and lifestyles lead to high blood pressure in a short term or long term. They include:
- Lack of physical activity: Sometimes, a blood vessel might be blocked or bridged with fats, or other materials unknown to us. But regular exercise sheds off and opens blocked routes for easy flow of blood. If the blood vessel is not opened, there would be an increase in pressure all over.
- Salt intake: The blood contains electrolytes of which sodium, found in common salt, is one. Large sodium concentrations increase the osmotic pull of blood, causing increased intravascular volume. This leads to high blood pressure.
- Obese or overweight: Being overweight or obese is due to the accumulation of fat in the body. This fat can put pressure around the blood vessels, or inside the blood vessels, making it hard for blood to pass through. Blood would need more pressure to flow through these vessels.
- Smoking: Cigarettes contain nicotine, which makes the heart beat faster. In this case, this speed is very unnecessary and each beat comes with new pressure. This leads to high blood pressure.
- Extreme alcoholism: Alcohol stimulates a hormone called renin. Renin constructs the blood vessels and decreases urination. This means that renin makes it hard for blood to flow and also makes it hard for other fluid to leave the body. This increases blood pressure.
- Stress: During stress, there is a surge in the production of hormones that make your heart beat faster, and your blood vessels constrict. This is to happen for short period, but if the stress becomes extreme it is continuous. This is risky and causes consistent high blood pressure.
Causes of low blood pressure
Experiencing hypotension one time or the other is normal. But if it is consistent, understanding the causes would aid in addressing it. There are many causes of low blood pressure which includes:
- Suddenly standing up: Your body and heartbeat adjusts to any position you take. This means that an abrupt change in a position like sitting down can cause a drop in blood pressure for some minutes.
- Emotional shock: In shocking situations, your heart carries out a retraction. This is why when you are shocked, it feels like blood has drained from your face or body and after some minutes you feel the blood flowing back.
- Heart attacks or heart conditions: After a heart attack, the heart rate drops. This is due to many reasons, one of which is that heart attacks impair cardiac contractility which in turn reduce blood pressure.
- Pregnancy: A pregnant woman’s blood pressure can be higher than normal, and at the same time very low for her. This is because the demand for blood by her system and the fetus’ system can be too much, and in some situations, her heart cannot meet up.
- Serious injury: When a major artery or a major vein is cut open, blood rushes out. This reduces the amount of blood in circulation and indirectly reduces blood pressure.
- Blood infections: Blood can be infected, and some infections can tamper with the blood composition, and indirectly the pressure required to push it. Also, some microorganisms produce chemical factors which dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
- Shock: When an organ is seriously injured, the organ would be losing more blood than it’s getting. The organ is not getting enough oxygen and there is reduced blood in circulation. The shock can also be due to an allergy that can cause a reaction to the heart’s performance.
- Dehydration: This reduces the amount of liquid in the blood, which in turn reduces the pressure needed to push the blood.
Treatment of high blood pressure
Medical treatment isn’t the mainstay for high blood pressure. Management mostly involves keeping a healthy lifestyle, like regular exercise, no smoking, no excessive drinking, and reducing weight. These methods are essentials that should be followed even in the absence of hypertension.
There are natural health supplements for addressing hypertension. They include:
- Parsely: It acts as a calcium blocker
- Celery seeds: They also act as calcium blockers
- Chinese cats claw: It contains calcium blockers too.
- Potassium-rich foods
- Dark chocolate and cocoa
If you have high blood pressure, do not forget to talk to your doctor
Treatment of low blood pressure
In treating low blood pressure, you first have to find the cause of the blood pressure. The treatment depends on the type of low blood pressure and the cause of low blood pressure. The major treatments for low blood pressure are:
- Medication to raise the blood pressure
- Emergency treatment of organ shock
- Treatment of any underlying disease
- Change of lifestyle for long-term wellness.
There are natural methods for addressing hypotension. They include:
- Drinking more water. Avoid dehydrating liquids like alcohol
- Eating small portions of food at many intervals and eating slowly.
- Eating foods that contain a high level of sodium.
- If you want to stand up or change a position, do it slowly.
- Put on compression stockings most times.
Regulation of blood pressure is a very crucial parameter that most people forget until they are in the hospital. We should be more mindful of our cardiovascular health and correct abnormal pressure values with a healthy lifestyle, medication, and natural substances.