Of all the chronic illnesses that Americans suffer from, high blood pressure is the most pervasive. Over 25% of all U.S. citizens have it with more getting it every year. Since high blood pressure or hypertension has very few symptoms, at least until it is in it’s advanced stages, many people with it are walking around without knowing that they have it.
But what is high blood pressure or hypertension? And why is it so dangerous?
Hypertension is a condition in which the amount of pressure necessary for blood to pass through the body’s arterial vessels becomes so dangerously high that if impacts other organs in the body. It is usually defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 140/90 – where the first figure is the systolic blood pressure and the second is the diastolic blood pressure.
The average adult human body has about 10 to 11 pints of blood coursing through their body as any one time. In order for it to flow through the arterial vessels, a certain amount of force or pressure is required. This is what is commonly referred to as the blood pressure. Too low of a force and you’ll typically suffer from being tired, light-headed, woozy, and so on. Chronic low blood pressure, or hypotension, is rare.
If the force against the arterial walls is too high, however, even though you’ll rarely experience physical symptoms, your body’s internal organs may very well begin to suffer damage from the excessive force.
There are Four stages of hypertension – stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, and stage 4.
Stage 1 – Most people, three out of every four people with hypertension, have stage 1 hypertension – the least severe. If you have a reading of 140/90 to 159/99 you have stage 1. This stage is easily controllable usually through a combination of diuretics, prescription drug medicines, and lifestyle changes
Stage 2 – One out of every five people with hypertension have stage 2. If your blood pressure reading is 160/100 to 180/110, you probably fall into this category. This is a more dangerous stage than stage 1 and will normally require multiple medicines to quickly get the readings down into a normal and safe range.
Stage 3 – Fewer than 5% of people with hypertension fall into the stage 3 category. If your blood pressure reading is 180/110 to 210/125, you probably fall into this very dangerous category.
Stage 4 – This is the most severe of the stages. If your hypertension reading is 210/130 to 230+/ 140+ or higher, you probably fall into this category and should seek immediate help.
Note that hypertension readings are not perfect, and can actually change wildly from morning to night, day to day, or between various readings. That’s why it’s important to take a series of blood pressure readings over time to form a reliable consensus of what your average blood pressure actually is.
It’s important to note that hypertension, by itself, is not a fatal disease. Hypertension, if treated in time, can be successfully controlled. If left untreated, however, it can unnecessarily lead to kidney failure, stroke, hardening of the arteries, and heart attacks.