When it comes to blood pressure, questions have been posted on whether high or low is more dangerous. This is a question that has been debated for many years.
Some people believe that high pressure is the root of all evil when it comes to heart health. Others think that low pressure can be just as harmful, if not more so.
So, which is it? Which type of pressure has more negative effects on a person’s health? Which of them can prove fatal?
Let’s examine the facts and try to find out which type is more dangerous.
Understanding Blood Pressure
Blood Running Through Our Bodies
Before we go into high and low pressures, let’s first learn about this important pressure essential to our lives.
Everyone knows that we have blood running through our bodies. Many people think that blood is the fuel for our bodies. This is a misconception. Food and nutrients are actually the fuel that our bodies need to get going each and every day.
With that said though, it doesn’t diminish how important blood is. The circulation of the blood is the highway on which these nutrients and oxygen reach all other parts of the body.
So how does pressure fit into all this? The pressure is the force of the heart that pumps the blood throughout the body.
Measuring This Pressure
When pressure is taken by a doctor, two numbers are taken into account. These are systolic and diastolic pressure.
Systolic is the pressure at which the heart pumps out blood throughout the body. Diastolic is the period of rest between pumping. Readings come as systolic over diastolic pressure and are usually measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
Normal ranges for pressure range between 90/60 to 120/80 mmHg. Higher pressures have readings at 140/90 mmHg and above. Lower pressures have readings lower than 90/60 mmHg.
Now that we understand a little bit more, it is time to look at the effects when it hits both the high and low ends of the spectrum.
High Blood Pressure
High pressure is most commonly known as hypertension. This is when the force of the blood is very high, making it push up against the walls of the artery.
In truth, high pressure is a silent killer. People can have high pressure for years without showing any symptoms. However, without the proper care, this can lead to serious complications.
Fortunately, high pressure is easily detected. The trick here is what one does with this information.
While easily detectable, a recent study on high blood pressure showed that in the past three decades, the number of patients afflicted with these conditions has doubled. Currently, at least 1.2 billion individuals have hypertension.
Medical Conditions and Aging
There are two types of hypertension namely primary and secondary.
Primary hypertension is one that doesn’t seem to have a direct cause. Instead, it gradually develops as people grow older.
On the other hand, secondary hypertension has many associated causes. The causes are usually underlying medical conditions that affect the pressure of blood. One example of the varied causes is kidney diseases, diabetes, and problems with the adrenaline gland and thyroid.
Medication and Drugs
At the same time, certain medications we take can also significantly raise our pressure. These include birth control pills, pills for pain relief, and even medicine for colds.
Finally, using illegal drugs like methamphetamines and cocaine can also negatively impact the pressure on people’s blood.
Apart from these causes though, there are a number of risk factors that can increase the chances of hypertension. These include the aforementioned age of a person, smoking tobacco, lack of physical activity, too much salt, being overweight, stress, and genetics.
The causes of hypertension are varied and numerous. While it may seem like hypertension is there no matter where you turn, it is controllable and it all starts with understanding everything that can cause it.
As mentioned previously, hypertension can cause a heart attack or stroke due to the thickening of the arteries. The thicker arteries mean that blood needs to be pumped harder. If it fails to pump hard enough, it can lead to heart failure.
Apart from heart problems though, hypertension can also affect a person’s brain. It can lead to an aneurysm, and if it ruptures, it could prove fatal to the person.
The weakened flow to the brain can also bring about a type of dementia called vascular dementia. This significantly affects a person’s memory and reasoning among other things.
These are only a few effects that hypertension brings. Others include organ failure, blindness, and metabolic syndrome.
Low Blood Pressure
On the other end of the spectrum, low pressure of the blood is called hypotension. When hypertension and hypotension are compared, the former is always given more weight. With that said though, it is important to make the point that hypotension similarly brings along a variety of problems and complications.
Furthermore, new discoveries are being made each and every day. For instance, research recently found links between hypotension and suicidal thoughts.
Medical Conditions and Life Choices
Just like hypertension, there are many factors that contribute to hypotension. These could be as mundane as body position and as serious as underlying medical conditions.
Things like how long a person is standing, or suddenly standing from a seated or lying position are enough to cause pressure to drop. Also included here are a person’s diet, stress, and even just the time of day. Medications such as antidepressants and those for Parkinson’s are just a couple that contributes to hypotension.
Conditions and Vitamins
Pre-existing conditions such as pregnancy and heart conditions can also cause hypotension. One very common condition is not having enough fluids in the body.
Another is not having the right vitamins in the body such as iron and B-12. These vitamins and nutrients ensure that the body is creating enough blood cells.
The most common effects of hypotension include being dizzy, feeling weak, and fainting. This is the reason why hypertension seems to be taken more seriously.
While initially not as serious as the effects of hypertension, it needs to be taken into context. If a person faints while walking or when driving, it could cause serious injuries or even death.
It must be stated though that if left unchecked and not maintained well, hypotension could result in complications in the heart and brain.
On paper, hypertension or high pressure takes the cake. However, both high and low blood pressure need to be treated seriously, especially since it affects everyone as they get older.
Caution is always the best approach to living a long and healthy life. Taking care of one’s body, eating the right food, and avoiding stress contribute greatly to controlling one’s blood pressure.
If you or a loved one start to experience any of the symptoms listed above, consult a doctor immediately.
At the same time, being trained in first aid will allow you to provide assistance and care if the need arises.
Learn more about these relevant life-saving practices by taking CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course today.