The circulatory system is a closed circuit in which the heart continuously pumps blood through the arteries. In the process, the blood exerts a force on the walls of the blood vessels. Blood pressure measures the magnitude of this force. To know it, the upper and lower pressures are measured. The upper pressure is determined when the heart contracts and squeezes a lot of blood through the arteries; the lower pressure when the heart relaxes and the pressure on the vessel walls decreases. Although fully automatic systems exist, the measurement of blood pressure is still usually done with an inflatable bracelet and stethoscope. The result is expressed in mmHg (Hg stands for mercury). Usually the doctor will divide the values by ten: instead of 120/80 mmHg he will give 12/8. The ideal blood pressure has an upper pressure lower than 120 mmHg and a lower pressure lower than 80 mmHg.
What? Elevated blood pressure occurs when values are higher than 140 and 90 mmHg. Because posture, activities, tension, emotions and anxiety affect blood pressure, it changes constantly. With some people it even increases as soon as they enter the doctor's surgery because they are tense at that moment (= the white coat effect). One measurement is therefore insufficient to conclude that someone has elevated blood pressure. Three measurements, preferably at different times, can be conclusive. When blood pressure is elevated, the heart and blood vessels are affected, often without the person being aware of any harm. That is why it is described as a silent killer. A healthy lifestyle - preferably from an early age - helps to prevent hypertension.
Usually, hypertension does not cause any physical symptoms. Only with prolonged and extremely high blood pressure can headaches, tinnitus, vision problems, fatigue or nosebleeds occur. Even if you don't feel anything, detecting elevated blood pressure in time is extremely important. After all, it causes arteriosclerosis (atherosclerosis), which can affect various organs. If untreated, hypertension is one of the main causes of: a heart attack; reduced blood flow to the heart (angina pectoris) or legs; heart failure; stroke in the brain; kidney damage: eye damage. Because elevated blood pressure affects the heart and blood vessels, often without being aware of any harm, it is described as a silent killer.
Sometimes elevated blood pressure is the result of a physical abnormality (e.g., kidney disease). But in 95 percent of patients, one finds no direct cause. However, several risk factors are known to contribute to hypertension: smoking; More than two glasses of alcohol a day; obesity; excessive salt consumption; eating a lot of licorice; heredity; the use of certain medications (e.g., effervescent tablets containing sodium). The likelihood that elevated blood pressure will lead to a serious condition is significantly increased if elevated blood pressure is associated with: high cholesterol levels; smoking; obesity; excessive alcohol consumption; lack of exercise; certain conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease; negative tensions and unhealthy stress; hereditary predisposition.