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Many things that are “high” are great, and some are not so great as one man complained, “I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high anxiety. Getting high is no fun anymore.”

The Numbers of Pressure

But you may not know if you have high blood pressure or not–since blood pressure is all about the readings. The CDC reports that 1 in 3 Americans has high blood pressure, often called the silent killer.

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Hypertension is defined as a blood pressure reading that is continuously 140 over 90 or higher, for a prolonged period of time. Many people will have a moment, or a day of a of high blood pressure. most likely because of all the stress, anxiety, and tension of everyday life. But just one reading does not necessarily signify that you have high blood pressure, because so many things can affect your blood pressure during a day. To determine if you have high blood pressure, you really need to take readings throughout the day, over a course of a few days.

Why Worry About Blood Pressure?

Pressure of course is a strain. And this particular strain causes an extra strain on your heart and blood vessels, which, over time, increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, dementia and still other unhealthy and debilitating problems. The sad situation is, that so many people who have high blood pressurean estimated 1 in 5 of those people–are not aware they are in a risk zone for problems and therefore not seeking any type of treatment.

What Happens to You With High Blood Pressure?

Blood flows through your arteries, which when healthy, are flexible, strong, elastic with a smooth inner lining so that your blood flows free to supply all your organs and tissues with the oxygen and nutrients they need. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder than it should to pump blood to the rest of your body. This makes the left ventricle thicken or stiffen, which makes it harder to pump blood to your body, and therefore your risk of heart attack is increased.

healthy heart

With high blood pressure, that increased pressure of blood flowing through your arteries can cause artery damage and narrowing, damage the inner lining cells, and contributes to making artery walls thick and stiff which is the disease called arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Then fats from what you eat passing through damaged cells, collect and produce the arteriosclerosis in the arteries which can block blood flow to all your parts.

Damage can also cause chest pain or angina, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, eye damage and aneurysm. An aneurysm comes about when a weakened artery wall enlarges and forms a bulge which can rupture, cause internal bleeding which can be fatal.

Coronary artery disease is when arteries to the heart are narrowed and then blood cannot flow freely which can result in chest pain, heart attack, arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms.

Brains and Blood

Your brain also requires a healthy blood supply to survive. High blood pressure can cause a temporary disruption of blood supply to the brain, which is a warning that you are at risk for a real stroke. A stroke happens when a part of your brain does not get oxygen and nutrients, which causes brain cells to die. With high blood pressure your blood vessels in your brain can be weakened and damaged, narrowed, ruptured or leak. Or, blood clots can form in the arteries that flow to your brain.

Dementia, a brain disease that results in problems with thinking, memory, vision, movement, speaking, reasoning can be the result of narrowing and blockage of arteries that bring blood to the brain, which can be caused by high blood pressure.

Blood Vessels to Waste

Kidneys filter waste and fluid from your blood with healthy blood vessels. High blood pressure can injure the blood vessels both in and going to your kidneys casing kidney disease. Dangerous amounts of waste and fluid can accumulate. Kidney failure can result.

Your Eyes and Vision

Blood must travel to your eyes through blood vessels, also, and they too can be damaged by high blood pressure, causing retinopathy–which can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision, or even loss of vision.

Blood Vessels and Sex

Sexual dysfunction also can occur as a result of high blood pressure, when the lining of your blood vessels is damaged, causing the arteries to harden and narrow limiting blood flow- also less blood is able to flow to your penis, which can result in difficulty to achieve and maintain erections–or erectile dysfunction.

Women are not spared either, as sexual dysfunction can also be a side effect of high blood pressure for women as well.

Bone Loss

High blood pressure can increase the amount of calcium in your urine which leads to loss of bone density which can lead to broken bones.

Sleep and Blood Pressure

Doctors have counseled that a person having difficulty with blood pressure may benefit from a focus on their sleep. It is believed that high blood pressure may be a factor in triggering sleep apnea. And vice versa. Going hand in hand, sleep apnea which causes sleep deprivation raises blood pressure.

Slow Wave Deep Sleep and Your Blood Pressure

It is believed that less than 6 hours of sleep a night could increase your risk of high blood pressure. This is because sleep does help to regulate your body including your body’s stress hormones.

A recent study published in a journal of hypertension has described that it is not the amount of sleep but the quality that effects your risk for high blood pressure. The study was done at Harvard medical school where the researchers looked at slow waves stages of sleep–the deepest hours of sleep. This has been determined to be 90 minutes to 2 hours of a normal night’s rest. The study followed 784 healthy men for three and a half years who began with no high blood pressure. Their slow wave sleep was monitored at home by machine, and blood pressure was checked throughout. The study found that men with the least time in slow wave or deep sleep were the most likely to develop high blood pressure.

A normal sleep would have about 25% slow wave sleep, the men who were at most risk for hypertension had deep sleep for no more than 4% of total sleep every night.

The study also found that men with the least deep sleep were more likely to have sleep apnea.

What is important about slow wave sleep is that blood pressure falls– which doctors say is a good thing because if blood pressure does not fall at night that means a condition called non-dipping occurs, which is a risk factor for heart disease, and may influence daytime blood pressure.

Doctors also believe that there is a possibility that when those areas of the brain don’t enter slow wave sleep that may interfere with various brain signals that influence blood pressure with release of various hormones.

Can A Day Make a Difference?

Studies have shown that what a person does during the day, can make a difference to deep sleep at night.

Being more physically active can increase time in deep sleep. Being more cognitively active can increase time spent in deep sleep.

Doctors say that the key to know whether you have gotten deep sleep is how you are feeling after a full nights sleep. If you’re feeling tired and unrefreshed than you probably should speak to your doctor to determine what is causing your exhaustion during the day.

Stop-Breathing and Sleep Apnea and Blood Pressure

Now if you have sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which you stop and start breathing while you are sleeping, you will probably feel tired after adequate hours in bed or asleep, because the very sleep your body needs is interrupted.

Another important study on stop-breathing and blood pressure was done on more than 6,000 men and woman. The participants were measured every night before sleeping for their blood pressure, weight and other measures, and then connected to a sleep monitor that recorded brain waves, heart waves, oxygen levels and breathing rate while sleeping. From this the average number of stop-breathing episodes per hour of sleep, indicated the degree of sleep apnea. Those people with more than 30 episodes of stop-breathing per hour of sleep were more than 2 times likely to have high blood pressure than those with no stop-breathing. Research is still being done on the relationships between sleep apnea and heart disease, but the expert opinions say that if you do have sleep apnea, the chances are increased significantly that you will develop hypertension some time. Obviously then a great amount of research suggests that sleep apnea and high blood pressure are not your friends, and can be a very dangerous combination.

Research has indicated that about 30-50% of patients with high blood pressure have sleep apnea.

Another study has shown that after a poor night of sleep, followed by a stressful day is an especially bad duo for blood pressure. The study showed that fatigued people climbed about 10 points higher on degree of difficulty for a task compared to when they were doing the same task well rested.

Research has indicated that people who have a combination of sleep apnea and an irregular heart beat have a 40% likeliness to need additional treatments for irregular heartbeat. Those who do not treat their sleep apnea have an 80% chance of the reoccurrence of irregular heartbeat.

Why Blood Pressure and Sleep Apnea are Connected?

Your blood pressure will go up when your sleep is disrupted by sleep apnea because when you are not breathing, you are not taking in your required oxygen. So, your oxygen level in your body drops down. Then receptors that get this message of the drop-in oxygen alerts your brain. Your brain, in response to that alert sends signals through your nervous system and blood vessels a message that tells them to tighten up in order to see that both your heart and your brain gets the priority for an increase in the flow of oxygen.

The mechanisms that go on at night like this tend to continue during the daytime even when you are awake. So then, that tightening up of your blood vessels to pump that increase of flow of oxygen to your heart and brain seems to continue, according to research and theory at present.

CPAP and Blood Pressure

The CPAP device is a continuous positive airway pressure device–a mask that helps promote normal breathing during sleep. A CPAP is often prescribed for sleep apnea. It has been shown that those who use the CPAP device, experience not only a healthy lowering of blood pressure at night, but during the day as well.

But stay tuned for even better solutions to promote normal breathing at night–and thereby helping to keep your blood pressure where it belongs, too.

Tips and Takeaways

  • High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called a silent killer, because you can be walking around with it, and not even know it.
  • High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Poor sleep can lead to high blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure and sleep apnea are linked. People with high blood pressure are more likely to have sleep apnea, and vice versa.
  • Blood pressure is supposed to drop while sleeping. If it does not, a dangerous situation can occur. Sleep apnea can prevent this important drop from happening.
  • Treating sleep apnea can also lower blood pressure.

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