High  blood pressure is a common diagnosis that most individuals have either heard of, are aware of or know someone that has been diagnosed with it. Hypertension is a long term disease (chronic disease) in which the force of blood against your artery is elevated and can  cause health problems such as heart disease, kidney failure and even blindness.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force by which your blood flows through your arteries. When your heart beats, it helps push your blood through your arteries. As blood flows, it puts pressure on your artery walls.

High blood pressure, also called Hypertension, is when the blood moves through your arteries at a higher than normal pressure. This increase in pressure against your arteries can cause damage to artery walls.

What causes High Blood Pressure?

Several factors contribute to a high blood pressure, such as high sodium intake, sedentary lifestyle, weight gain and genetics.

If your blood pressure gets too high or stays elevated for a longer period of time, this can lead to other health conditions

Primary/Essential Hypertension

If you have elevated blood pressure, but we are unsure of an underlying disease that is causing high blood pressure, it is called Essential or Primary Hypertension.

This is the most common type, develops over several years and is related to underlying factors such as weight gain or your lifestyle.

Secondary Hypertension

Secondary Hypertension develops when another medical condition or medication is causing your blood pressure to be elevated.

Regardless of why your blood pressure is high, if it is elevated it can cause medical and health complications. However, knowing if you have secondary hypertension will change your treatment plan.

Common causes of Secondary Hypertension are:

Kidney Disease

Sleep Apnea

Thyroid or adrenal gland issues

Medications (such as NSAIDs)

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

The symptoms of high blood pressure vary, and for some patients, they have no symptoms.

This is why, sometimes this disease is called the “silent killer”. Most patients with hypertension are caught on routine screenings, physicals or when they go to the dentist office for a check up.

Occasionally, patients will experience headache, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, pressure or chest pain. Usually, if you are experiencing these symptoms your blood pressure has been elevated for a while or is dangerously elevated.

How is Hypertension Diagnosed?

We will usually perform a Blood Pressure reading when you come to a medical appointment. Depending on how high your blood pressure reading is, your healthcare provider will either diagnose you with high blood pressure or if just borderline, might ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home.

According to the American Heart Association, the following are the acceptable ranges for your blood pressure.

Ok, so I have Hypertension, now what?

I tell most of my patients, after we have diagnosed with you hypertension we recommend starting medications to help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of complications. As you are undergoing and starting treatment, I recommend making lifestyle changes that will allow you to lower your blood pressure. Once you make these changes and if your blood pressure gets low enough, you can talk to your healthcare provider to discuss discontinuation of medication.

There are some modifiable and nonmodifiable risk factors.

Nonmodifiable Risk Factors are things that you cannot change, such as:



Family history


Chronic Medical Conditions

Modifiable Risk Factors are things that you can change to help lower your blood pressure. Such as:

Diet — cut back on salt, fat, high greasy and high cholesterol foods

Activity — increase your exercise, decrease the amount of time you are sedentary in your day.

Weight — lose weight

Smoking, drinking — Stop smoking and reduce or eliminate alcohol intake

Stress– try to reduce your stress levels or implement stress reduction activities such as yoga

and meditation.

Chronic Medical Condition — I know I listed this in nonmodifiable risk factors as well. While

you cannot control some chronic conditions such as autoimmune diseases, other conditions such as diabetes and cholesterol can be managed with medications and lifestyle changes as well.

What happens next?

High blood pressure is a chronic medical condition, something you will need to monitor and control for the rest of your life once you have it. Even if you change your diet, improve your risk factors or start medications, you will always need to monitor your blood pressure and keep up with your readings.

My goal for my patients is always to keep them on the fewest number of medications with the highest benefit. If we can control your blood pressure with diet and lifestyle modifications we will do our best to do so. However, just because your readings improve, does not mean you can go back to your old lifestyle. If you do so, you will end up right back in our office with elevated blood pressure readings and higher risks of complications.

Asma Bhaidani