Hypertension is a condition that occurs when blood pressure increases to unhealthy levels. Not only does it affect 1.3 billion people worldwide, or one in four adults, it’s the number one risk factor for death globally. But hypertension doesn’t just happen overnight – it’s when blood pressure is consistently too high which, over time, causes arteries to harden and narrow.
However, if you suffer from hypertension, you might not be aware of it as most people experience no symptoms. As a result, fewer than one in five people have their hypertension under control. This has a significant impacts if left uncontrolled (on individuals, and healthcare professionals and provision) and often leads to outcomes like heart disease, cardiac arrest, stroke, kidney disease and cognitive conditions such as memory loss and dementia.
This guide will help you separate hypertension myths from facts, improve your understanding of your overall health, raise awareness of the high-risk factors. Ultimately, highlighting the need for effective monitoring, management and prevention of hypertension.
Types of hypertension
Hypertension is measured in stages that relate to different blood pressure readings. Each distinct type has unique causes and characteristics:
- Primary Hypertension is the most common, developing over time without a clear cause.
- Secondary Hypertension stems from underlying conditions like kidney disease.
- Malignant Hypertension is severe and rapid, requiring immediate medical care.
- Resistant Hypertension generally does not respond well to standard treatments.
- Pulmonary hypertension is a completely separate disease which results in high blood pressure in the arteries going to your lungs.
The blood pressure categories, as defined by the American College of Cardiology and the European Society of Hypertension, are used to guide diagnosis and treatment, as follows:
- Optimal: Below 120/80 mmHg,
- Normal: 120-129/80-84 mmHg,
- High-normal: 130-139/85-89 mmHg,
- Hypertension Stage 1: 140-159/90-99 mmHg,
- Hypertension Stage 2: 160-179/100-109 mmHg,
- Hypertension Stage 3: 180 and above/110 and above mmHg.
Hypertension myth busting: Age, gender and symptoms
When it comes to hypertension, it’s important to get to the facts about this serious condition. So, let’s clear the air around hypertension and bust three common misconceptions of age, gender and symptoms.
Myth 1: Hypertension is an old person’s problem
Let’s start with the biggest myth: age. The belief that only older adults need to be concerned about high blood pressure is widespread. For clarity, this article sets out normal ranges by age. In truth, hypertension can affect anyone, at any age. Millions of young adults, and even children, globally are currently living with this condition. In fact, a BBC article highlighted that 170,000 of 16-24 year olds in the UK alone may unknowingly have hypertension.
Myth 2: Hypertension is more prevalent in men
Then there are the myths surrounding gender, like hypertension is more of a male issue. However, high blood pressure is just as significant a health risk for men and women, although there are age-related differences. The American Heart Association conducted research that shows women over 65 are more likely than men to get high blood pressure as after menopause, women’s blood pressure typically rises more steeply than men’s.
Essentially, older women and younger men are risk groups. But the story isn’t clear cut – the research also reveals gender differences in the control of hypertension. The study found that men from ages 20 to 49 were up to 70% more likely to have uncontrolled hypertension compared to women. However, this trend shifts in older age groups with women are significantly more likely than men to have uncontrolled hypertension, with their risk increasing up to 63% compared to men. This study underscores the importance of gender-specific approaches to hypertension management and monitoring across age groups.
Myth 3: If I had hypertension, I’d know about it
Simple answer: probably not. Many people assume that if you have hypertension, you’ll know it. But the opposite is almost always the case. Hypertension often flies under the radar which is why it’s dubbed the “silent killer”. It can quietly be doing damage your body for years before you even realize something’s wrong.
Stress is another misconception. It’s well known that stress causes spikes in blood pressure – the moments you “feel your blood boiling”. Yet, long-standing hypertension isn’t caused solely by stress. It’s a complex condition that’s also influenced by genetics and lifestyle. Alongside the “I’d know about it” myth is a belief that there’s a cure for hypertension. However, it’s a chronic condition that often requires lifelong management, treatment and monitoring – which is why we designed the Aktiia blood pressure system to help you continuously and unobtrusively keep your blood pressure in check.
Hypertension does have symptoms
This silent killer isn’t entirely without symptoms. While people in the early stages of raised blood pressure aren’t likely to experience noticeable symptoms, hypertension could be creating problems. That’s why many people only discover their condition after a routine check-up or, unfortunately, following a serious event like a stroke or heart attack. In acute cases, symptoms may include:
- Headaches: Frequent, unexplained headaches can be a warning sign
- Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity
- Dizziness: Feeling lightheaded or unsteady
- Nausea: A feeling of sickness, sometimes accompanied by vomiting
- Blurred vision: Changes in eyesight, indicating possible damage to blood vessels in the eyes.
These symptoms often appear when hypertension has reached a severe or life-threatening stage. That’s why regular blood pressure monitoring is essential, even for young, fit and healthy people. The latest upgrades to the Aktiia system make this wearable even more effective for keeping an eye on blood pressure – and therefore your overall health and wellbeing.
The Aktiia device is now waterproof, so it’s fine for the shower and swimming pool. Setup is a breeze for accurate readings from the start and it’s easy to get into the habit of wearing it. It’s a few grams lighter and a bit smarter too – more health info gives you a clearer picture of your blood pressure and what it means. Plus, it’s tested and trusted for folks up to 85 years old, so everyone can rely on its health monitoring insights. The focus of the upgrades is catching blood pressure changes that might go unnoticed unless severe or they cause a serious health event.
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Risk factors and high-risk groups
Understanding the risk factors for hypertension is crucial. Let’s explore what increases your chances of developing this condition, backed by validated data and research.
Age and sex: It’s a known fact that as we age, our risk of hypertension increases. Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure before age 55, whereas women’s risk escalates post-menopause. The American Heart Association study indicates that women over 70 and men under 50 are more likely to have uncontrolled hypertension, even when under treatment.
Race and ethnicity: Recent studies provide nuanced insights into the prevalence of hypertension among different racial and ethnic groups in the US. For example, the Hispanic Community Health Study found varying rates of hypertension among different Hispanic subgroups. These disparities in hypertension are echoed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which shows that 56% of non-Hispanic Black adults have high blood pressure, compared to 48% of non-Hispanic White adults.
Family history: Genetics play a crucial role in the likelihood of developing hypertension. In short, if your parents or close blood relatives have high blood pressure, your chances of developing it increase. This hereditary aspect is significant according to this American Heart Association article on risk factors.
Lifestyle factors: Diet, physical activity and habits like smoking significantly affect blood pressure. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC both emphasize how lifestyle choices increase the risk for high blood pressure. Our article on safe exercises for high blood pressure also provides insights into how physical activity can be managed safely and effectively for people living with hypertension.
Medical conditions: Conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease can influence blood pressure too. The American Kidney Fund makes the connection between kidney disease and hypertension while the CDC says 6 in 10 people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, emphasizing the interconnected nature of conditions. Our Join the Dots article explores the relationship between health conditions and hypertension, with a focus on what happens to blood pressure at night.
Managing hypertension: Lifestyle, medications and continuous monitoring
Effectively managing hypertension involves a combination of lifestyle changes, the right medication and ongoing monitoring. Here’s a high-level view that you can use to personalize according to your specific condition and circumstances.
Lifestyle changes: Adopting healthier habits can significantly lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association suggests a balanced diet with reduced salt intake, regular exercise, stress management, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol. The European Society of Hypertension (ESH) also highlights the importance of a combination of physical activity, dietary changes and lifestyle factors in managing hypertension.
Medications: Commonly prescribed medications for hypertension include diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. The choice of medication depends on individual health factors and should always be discussed with a healthcare professional.
Regular and continuous monitoring: Hypertension is a long-term condition. So, continuous blood pressure monitoring is vital for hypertension management. The latest Aktiia blood pressure monitor reveals blood pressure patterns. Plus, simply wearing the device creates what’s been dubbed as
Together, these elements form a holistic approach to controlling blood pressure and reducing many of the major health risks associated with hypertension.
Next steps in managing hypertension
If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, your immediate goal should be to reduce the risk. A good starting point is to eliminate the guesswork in our 3-point plan:
- Understand and monitor: Regularly monitoring blood pressure and making sure you understand the readings and health insights.
- Make proactive lifestyle changes: Making informed choices about diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors – and feel good when you see the positive impact on your blood pressure.
- Collaborate on care: Working closely with your doctor or other healthcare professionals to tailor a hypertension management plan that suits your individual needs.
By addressing these areas, you can take significant steps towards effectively managing hypertension and improving your overall health.
How can I measure my blood pressure accurately at home?
To measure blood pressure accurately at home, use a validated blood pressure monitor. Aktiia has conducted several clinical studies that validate the accuracy of the continuous monitoring technology. The studies have shown that the Aktiia smartwatch provides BP readings that are comparable to those obtained by a traditional cuff-based BP monitor. It has received CE Mark clearance for users aged 21-65.
How can I manage erratic blood pressure?
Erratic blood pressure can be managed by regular monitoring, lifestyle changes and possibly medication. Consult with your doctor for a tailored approach.
How can I reduce my blood pressure through diet?
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol can help reduce blood pressure. Reducing salt intake is crucial for many people who have hypertension.
How can I lower my blood pressure without medication?
Lifestyle changes like regular exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake can help lower blood pressure without medication.
How can I choose the right medication for hypertension?
The right medication for hypertension varies based on individual health conditions. It’s essential to discuss with your doctor to find the most suitable one.
How can I understand the impact of blood pressure medication on my kidneys?
Some blood pressure medications can affect kidney function. Your doctor can provide guidance and monitor your kidney health while on these medications.
How can I best work with my doctor to manage my high blood pressure?
Regular check-ups, honest communication about your symptoms, lifestyle and side effects of medications, and following prescribed treatment plans are all key to controlling hypertension.
Disclaimer: If you have hypertension, we encourage you to speak to your healthcare professional if you plan to start monitoring your blood pressure at home.
World Heart Federation, 18 Dec 2023 – https://world-heart-federation.org/what-we-do-hypertension
American College of Cardiology, 22 Aug 2022 – https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology-ten-points-to-remember-harmonization-of-the-acc-aha
American Heart Association, 27 Sep 2021 – https://newsroom.heart.org/older-women-younger-men-more-likely-to-have-uncontrolled-blood-pressure
Facts about hypertension, 6 Jul 2023 – https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure-facts
Know Your Risk Factors, 31 May 2023 – https://www.heart.org/high-blood-pressure-know-your-risk-factors-for-high-blood-pressure
Risk for High Blood Pressure, 17 Mar 2023 – https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure-risk-factors