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Essential Hypertension

August 7, 2019
Essential Hypertension - Lark Health

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What you need to know about essential hypertension

Is your blood pressure high? It may well be, since 1 in 3 Americans have hypertension, and another 1 in 3 have pre-hypertension, or slightly elevated blood pressure. Most of essential hypertension is known as primary hypertension. That is, their hypertension is not caused by another condition.

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of the blood against your blood vessels. Pre-hypertension and hypertension occur when that force is higher than normal.

How to Read Your Blood Pressure Reading

When you get your blood pressure measured, you will usually see two numbers, expressed as a fraction. The higher number is the systolic blood pressure, or the force of blood when your heart is contracting. The bottom number, which is lower, is your diastolic blood pressure. This is your blood pressure when your heart is relaxed between beats.

High Blood Pressure Numbers

These are the American Heart Association's (AHA's) cut-offs for normal and elevated blood pressure.

The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get your blood pressure measured. Your doctor probably does it at most, if not all, of your appointments. At a minimum, get your blood pressure checked every two years if you are under 40 years old and have no risk factors. If you have risk factors or are over 40 years old, check your blood pressure every year. Many pharmacies and drug stores, and many supermarkets with pharmacies, have blood pressure machines that you can use.

Hypertension Risk Factors

Some people are naturally at higher risk for hypertension. People of African American descent and individuals with a family history of high blood pressure are at higher risk. Your risk increases as you get older. Diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea raise your risk as well.

There are many risk factors that you can control. Your risk increases if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Not physically active
  • Eat a high-sodium (high-salt) and/or low-potassium diet
  • Smoke or use other tobacco products
  • Drink alcohol in excess, such as more than one (women) or two (men) drinks per day
  • Have a lot of stress and are unable to manage it

Healthy lifestyle choices can lower your risk for high blood pressure.

Essential Hypertension Symptoms and Complications

Symptoms of hypertension are rare. You can have high blood pressure for years without knowing that you have it. Some people do not find out that they have hypertension until they have a hypertension-related event, such as a stroke or a heart attack. That is why it is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly. 

Some people may have symptoms such as:

These symptoms are rare and can indicate other problems, so it is best to measure your blood pressure if you have these symptoms or if you have no symptoms.

Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to serious complications. The majority of people who have a heart attack or stroke have high blood pressure. Other complications can include kidney disease, trouble with vision, aneurysm, and difficulty remembering things.

Hypertension Treatment

Only about half of people with hypertension have their blood pressure under control, but in most cases, you can lower your blood pressure simply by following doctor's orders, such as taking your blood pressure medications as prescribed. 

Many people do not take their hypertension medications exactly as prescribed. They may skip doses or take the wrong dose sometimes. They may not realize how important it is to take every single dose as prescribed, or they may forget to take a dose here or there.

Lark Hypertension Care can help you improve your blood pressure control by helping you be more compliant with your prescription medications. Lark can:

  • Send you push notifications to remind you to take your dose
  • Discuss your past week's medication adherence trends to motivate you to keep taking your meds
  • Let you know how the medications work and why they are so important for blood pressure control

Along with taking your medications, you can stay on top of blood pressure by monitoring it at home if your doctor suggests it. Again, Lark can remind you to take it, and when your blood pressure machine syncs automatically with Lark, Lark can help you see your trends. This can help you link health behaviors to blood pressure control so you can see what works and stay motivated to take your medications and make other healthy choices.

Best Hypertension Diet

What you eat can have a surprisingly large impact on your blood pressure. For example, one study found a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 11 mm Hg when participants followed an eating pattern called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). The pattern is high in vegetables, fruit, reduced-fat dairy products, and whole grains, and low in fatty meats and sugary foods. 

The best hypertension diet provides blood pressure-lowering nutrients such as calcium and potassium and is low in blood pressure-raising nutrients such as sodium. A good hypertension diet also helps with weight control, since excess pounds raise blood pressure. 

Lark can coach you towards healthier food choices and weight loss to lower blood pressure. You can receive feedback on the meals you log and get suggestions for healthier choices next time. With Lark, you can stay motivated to choose well and see how you have been doing over recent days and weeks.

More Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

Other healthy lifestyle choices can have major effects on your blood pressure. Consider physical activity, for example. Getting in 90 to 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity at a moderate to vigorous intensity can lead to a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 5 to 8 mm Hg. Lark can remind you to get active and track your activity. You might try:

  • Walking briskly or uphill
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Bicycling
  • Gardening
  • Skiing
  • Rowing
  • Playing a sport

Contrary to what many people think, strength training can also lower blood pressure by as much as 5 mm Hg. You can lift weights, do body-weight exercises, or try other equipment such as kettlebells, resistance bands, and medicine balls.

Other ways to lower blood pressure naturally are:

  • Get adequate sleep
  • Manage stress
  • Quit smoking or using tobacco

Support for Hypertension Management

Your own actions can greatly affect your blood pressure, and Lark Hypertension Care is there to help. Lark is available 24/7 to coach you, provide feedback, and support your healthy efforts. You may be surprised just how much control you have over your health!

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