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High blood pressure is a common condition whereby the long-term force of the blood pushing against your artery walls causes them to constrict and harden. When your arteries become narrower, less blood can flow through them. This starves vital organs, such as the heart, of the blood and oxygen they need to function.
High blood pressure is considered a “silent killer” because this destructive process does not usually produce any visible warning signs.
However, if your blood pressure is extremely high, it can cause a number of acute changes in the body.
Extremely high blood pressure is commonly referred to as a ‘hypertensive crisis’ – a severe increase in blood pressure that can lead to a stroke.
As Mayo Clinic explains, extremely high blood pressure — a top number (systolic pressure) of 180 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher or a bottom number (diastolic pressure) of 120 mm Hg or higher — can damage blood vessels.
“The blood vessels become inflamed and may leak fluid or blood. As a result, the heart may not be able to pump blood effectively,” says the health care company.
Systolic and diastolic blood pressure are the two numbers used to record your blood pressure reading. They are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
A study published in the journal Hypertension sought to map out the symptoms associated with a hypertensive crisis.
The study observed the prevalence of hypertensive crises (urgencies and emergencies) in an emergency department over the course of 12 months.
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One of the most commonly identified symptoms was dyspnea, the medical term for shortness of breath.
Other symptoms associated with a hypertensive crisis included headache, nosebleeds and faintness.
How should I respond?
According to Mayo Clinic, if you experience a severe increase in your blood pressure, seek immediate medical attention.
“Treatment for hypertensive crisis may include hospitalisation for treatment with oral or intravenous medications,” explains the health body.
In the longer term, it is important to make healthy lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure reading.
There are a number of important dietary tips that can help to stabilise your blood pressure.
According to the NHS, one of the most fundamental is to cut down on the amount of salt in your food.
As the health body explains, the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure.
“Aim to eat less than six grams (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful,” advises the health body.
Being active and taking regular exercise lowers blood pressure by making your heart stronger.
Mayo Clinic explains: “A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.”
UK health advice recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
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