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Risk factors for high blood pressure

High blood pressure (arterial hypertension) is a widespread condition and, according to estimates, affects almost a quarter of all adults in Austria, with patients over 50 years being even more frequently affected. The significance of high blood pressure lies primarily in its role as a trigger for conditions such as heart attack, atrial fibrillation, or stroke.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a patient has high blood pressure if the upper, or “systolic,” blood pressure is above 140 mmHg and/or the lower, or “diastolic,” blood pressure is above 90 mmHg. To ensure that blood pressure is not permanently too high, 135/85 mmHg is currently assumed to be the limit. New study findings suggest that an even lower blood pressure is favorable for preventing the aforementioned subsequent illnesses.

How can I detect high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is not a stable measure and fluctuates throughout the day depending on activity level and other factors. When you walk up the stairs or get angry about something, your blood pressure rises, so that’s normal. However, if blood pressure values are repeatedly above 135 mmHg systolic and/or above 85 mmHg diastolic even at rest, then the patient is suffering from hypertension. To determine this accurately, it is best to measure your blood pressure 2 times a day (once in the morning and once in the evening) in a seated resting position with your arm outstretched. In this regard, an upper arm blood pressure monitor is preferable to a wrist blood pressure monitor due to its higher accuracy. After a total of 30 measurements (i.e., after 15 days), a sufficient amount of data has been collected to determine meaningful average values. Furthermore, a 24-hour blood pressure measurement can be useful.

What are the causes of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can be attributed to many different causes, including lack of exercise, chronic stress, excessive salt intake, unhealthy diet, obesity, smoking, or familial risk. Furthermore, malfunction of the kidneys or thyroid must be ruled out, as these causes require different treatments. All these factors contribute through a complex system to the narrowing of the arteries – the vessels that transport blood from the heart to the other organs. The heart has to pump against narrowed arteries (increased resistance), leading to an increase in blood pressure. Medications aim to expand these constricted blood vessels again. However, this only succeeds for 12 to 24 hours. Then the vessels would narrow again. That’s why regular tablet intake is crucial. The actual cause is unfortunately not addressed by the medications.

Further meaningful examinations for an accurate diagnosis of high blood pressure include echocardiography, carotid duplex, electrocardiogram (EKG), exercise testing (ergometry), and laboratory tests.

How does high blood pressure manifest itself, what symptoms can occur?

The dangerous aspect of high blood pressure is that the condition can remain unnoticed in some patients for an extended period, causing no symptoms.. Some patients, however, describe symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, chest pressure, a feeling of heaviness or buzzing in the head, nervousness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and even erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, more and more younger patients are affected by high blood pressure. The longer high blood pressure remains untreated, the higher the risk of damage to the heart, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, eyes, and other organs, ultimately leading to a heart attack or stroke.

Various medications are available for the treatment of high blood pressure. To permanently lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of further complications, in addition to medication, lifestyle changes are usually necessary on the part of the patient. The exact therapy varies from patient to patient and is tailored to individual needs and lifestyle habits. Unfortunately, in most cases, long-term treatment, i.e. lifelong, is necessary.

A comprehensive doctor-patient conversation is a fundamental requirement for successful treatment. Together, as an expert team at the Co-Ordination, we strive to determine which lifestyle changes are realistic and well-implementable for affected patients.

How long do I have to take the medication?

In the vast majority of cases, it is unfortunately necessary for you to take the tablets for life and, above all, regularly. That is because the medications, as described, do not eliminate the cause but only temporarily alleviate the underlying blood vessel constriction, for 12 to 24 hours. Sometimes, however, it is indeed possible to overcome a significant cause (e.g., by eliminating severe stress or through a substantial weight reduction in cases of obesity), allowing for the discontinuation or at least reduction of medication thereafter.