While most people know about blood pressure in general, they often overlook the importance of each specific blood pressure number. Blood pressure numbers are generally measured as the top number- systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number- diastolic blood pressure. High diastolic blood pressure, in particular, can lead to severe health issues that shouldn’t be ignored.
Blood pressure is the force with which your blood presses against your artery walls as it circulates through your body. It’s measured using two numbers:
What are the Two Measures of Blood Pressure?
Systolic (the top number): is the pressure when your heart pumps blood out.
Diastolic (the bottom number): is the pressure when your heart rests between beats and refills with blood.
It’s important to note that a blood pressure reading higher than 130/80 mm Hg is typically considered hypertension or high blood pressure.
Different Levels of Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is categorized into various levels and conditions, indicating different states of health:
Normal blood pressure: Less than 120- Systolic (mm Hg); Less than 80- Diastolic (mm Hg)
Elevated blood pressure or pre-hypertension: Between 120 to 129- Systolic (mm Hg); Less than 80- Diastolic (mm Hg)
Stage 1 hypertension: Between 130 to 139- Systolic (mm Hg); Between 80 to 89- Diastolic (mm Hg)
Stage 2 hypertension: 140 or higher- Systolic (mm Hg); 90 or higher- Diastolic (mm Hg)
Hypertensive crisis: Higher than 180- Systolic (mm Hg); Higher than 120- Diastolic (mm Hg)
What You need to know about Isolated Diastolic Hypertension?
Hypertension is often categorized into three types: systolic, diastolic, and mixed. Diastolic hypertension is when the bottom number (diastolic pressure) is high. This type is more common in young adults.
Primary hypertension, where no specific cause is found, is the most common. However, sometimes diastolic hypertension can be secondary to other conditions like thyroid or kidney disease or sleep apnea.
While hypertension usually means both systolic and diastolic pressures are high, isolated diastolic hypertension (IDH) is different. IDH happens when only the diastolic number is high (above 80 mm Hg) while the systolic pressure remains normal.
High diastolic blood pressure can make blood vessels less flexible and lead to hardening and narrowing (atherosclerosis). Normal diastolic pressure usually ranges from 60 to 80 mmHg. A reading of 80-89 mmHg requires attention as it indicates pre-hypertension. Diastolic pressure can vary throughout the day, influenced by factors like nicotine use, stress, exercise, and posture. It’s advisable to check blood pressure several times a day to get an average reading.
IDH is relatively rare, making up less than 20% of hypertension cases. However, it’s still serious and can increase the risk of several health issues like strokes, heart disease, heart attacks, heart failure, aneurysms, atrial fibrillation, peripheral arterial disease, vision loss, and chronic kidney disease.
What Causes High Diastolic Blood Pressure?
Several factors can lead to isolated diastolic hypertension:
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
- A diet high in sodium
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Experiencing stress and anxiety
- Certain medications can also contribute to IDH, including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Birth control pills
- Atypical antipsychotics
Each of these factors can affect how the body regulates blood pressure, particularly the diastolic number. Lifestyle changes, weight management, a healthy diet, and regular medical checkups can often help in controlling blood pressure effectively.
What Leads to a Sudden Increase in Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, happens when the pressure in your arteries stays high. Your heart pumps blood into these arteries, which then carry it to the rest of your body. When the heart has to work harder to push blood through these arteries, it leads to hypertension. This condition can make you more likely to have heart-related problems, such as heart attacks and heart failure. People with high blood pressure often have narrower blood vessels, increasing their risk of stroke, kidney problems, and losing their vision.
Many things can cause your blood pressure to rise suddenly. Some of these include:
- Taking certain medicines, like anti-inflammatory drugs
- Using different kinds of medicines together
- Feeling very stressed or anxious
- Drinking too much caffeine
- Using recreational drugs
- Experiencing sudden pain
- Not drinking enough water (dehydration)
- Being scared or nervous about visiting a doctor or hospital (known as the “white coat effect”)
What Happens When Diastolic Blood Pressure is High?
Usually, high blood pressure doesn’t show any signs. That’s why it’s often called a silent killer. It might take years before high blood pressure becomes serious and shows any symptoms. Sometimes, these signs are mistaken for other health issues. Regular checkups are the best way to keep track of your blood pressure.
If high blood pressure gets severe, you might notice symptoms like:
- Terrible headaches
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating a lot
- Feeling dizzy
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling nervous
- Redness in the face
- Feeling very anxious
- Feeling tired or confused
- Heart beating irregularly
- Problems with your vision
- Seeing black spots in your vision
- Finding blood in your urine
- Chest pain or feeling a pounding sensation in your chest, neck, or ears
The Different Types of Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, comes in two main types:
1. Primary (Essential) Hypertension
This kind occurs without a specific cause and usually develops slowly over many years. Factors that might contribute to primary hypertension include:
The amount of blood circulating in the body
- Hormone levels
- Genetic factors
- Age-related physical changes
- Environmental factors like stress and lack of physical activity
2. Secondary Hypertension
Secondary hypertension happens because of another health problem and usually starts suddenly. It often results in higher blood pressure levels than primary hypertension. Causes of secondary hypertension include:
- Being overweight
- Sleep apnea
- Thyroid issues
- Kidney problems
- Heart defects from birth
- Abnormalities in blood vessels
- Some tumors related to hormones
- Tumors in the adrenal glands
- Illegal drug use, such as cocaine and amphetamines
- Conditions like Cushing’s syndrome and congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Certain medications like birth control pills, cold medicines, decongestants, pain relievers, and some prescriptions
Reducing High Diastolic Blood Pressure
It’s not just about lowering the diastolic number alone. If your diastolic blood pressure is high, you need to work on reducing your overall blood pressure. This can be done through managing your weight, making healthier food choices, and possibly taking medication.
Isolated diastolic hypertension can often be managed with lifestyle changes, dietary supplements, and medications.
Lifestyle Changes to Make
To lower high diastolic blood pressure, you can:
- Keep a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables and low in saturated fats and dairy
- Reduce salt intake
- Get enough sleep
- Manage stress levels
- Stop smoking
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Practice deep breathing
- Monitor your blood pressure at home
Dietary Supplements that can Help
Some supplements may help lower blood pressure, such as:
- Minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements and flaxseeds
- Supplements that improve blood flow, like cocoa, coenzyme Q10, L-arginine, and garlic
Medications to take
If changes in lifestyle and diet don’t reduce your blood pressure enough, your doctor might prescribe medications specifically for this condition.
Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be caused by a variety of factors:
- Aging, particularly after age 60, as arteries can become stiffer and narrower
- Smoking tobacco regularly
- Being overweight or obese
- Excessive drinking of alcohol
- Eating a diet high in fats
- Consuming a lot of salt
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle without much exercise
- Not eating enough potassium-rich foods
- Experiencing constant stress
- Male Genetics
- Having a family history of high blood pressure
- Having certain health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, sleep apnea, or high cholesterol
Complications of High Diastolic Blood Pressure
High diastolic blood pressure alone can significantly increase the risk of serious heart-related problems. Research published in the Journal of Hypertension has shown that adults with high diastolic blood pressure are at double the risk of experiencing cardiovascular issues like heart attacks, strokes, or even cardiac death compared to those with normal blood pressure.
To reduce overall blood pressure, including both the top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) numbers, a mix of treatments, lifestyle adjustments, and diet changes can be adequate. This includes consistently taking prescribed blood pressure medicines, staying at a healthy weight, being more active, managing stress levels, drinking less alcohol, eating less salt, and eating more potassium-rich foods. Regular blood pressure checks with a doctor are essential as well. People can also learn how to check their blood pressure at home by getting advice from their doctor. If someone is trying to lower their blood pressure but isn’t seeing results, they should seek further advice from their doctor.