What is Prehypertension?

Although Prehypertension is not an illness, it can lead to serious problems. Doctors now warn patients with prehypertension to modify their diets, lifestyle changes and possibly medication in order to avoid the serious medical condition of hypertension also known as high blood pressure.

It might be considered a second chance to keep a healthy heart that should not be ignored. According to the Harvard Medical School, just having prehypertension increases a person’s chance of getting heart disease and may increase the chance of developing kidney failure.

The cause of prehypertension is unknown. Patients with the same diet, weight and past medical history sometimes get elevated blood pressure and some do not. Since changes in diet, exercise and managing stress often improves blood pressure, it is assumed that diet, stress and a sedentary lifestyle may cause prehypertension in some people.

What are the Symptoms of Prehypertension?

Most people with prehypertension do not realize they have it until they are informed by their doctor. This condition does not cause any symptoms other than an increase in blood pressure slightly beyond normal range.

A blood pressure reading is taken from the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure when a heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the pressure in between heartbeats. Readings are taken in millimeters of mercury or mm HG. For prehypertension, the readings are:

  • Systolic pressure 120 – 139 mm HG
  • Diastolic pressure 80 – 89 mm HG

Prehypertension Causes

For the most part, the same causes of hypertension hold true for prehypertension. Some of the most common causes of prehypertension are related to lifestyle choices.

Those who are overweight have a great risk of developing prehypertension as they age. A diet that is high is sodium is another lifestyle cause of prehypertension. Eating a diet heavy in saturated fats and red meat leads to high cholesterol levels. Over time, high levels of cholesterol will lead to atherosclerosis which in turn leads to prehypertension, hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

Another major cause of prehypertension is stress. Stress that is above and beyond what is normally experienced in life leads to both short-term and long-term increases in blood pressure levels.

There are some diseases that lead to prehypertension as well. Those who suffer from a thyroid-related disease will often develop prehypertension. This holds true for those with kidney disorders and certain endocrine system disorders as well.

How is Prehypertension Treated?

The best way to help lower blood pressure is to change diet, exercise, stress levels and use of recreational drugs like alcohol and tobacco. Stopping smoking and drinking helps reduce blood pressure in the long term.

Changes in diet include lowering overall salt intake to 1500 milligrams per day, eating less meat and eating less highly processed foods. If a doctor also recommends losing weight, then a low-fat high-fiber diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can help not only lose weight but keep it off.

Exercise not only burns off calories but helps strengthen the heart and the entire circulatory system. Ask your doctor about what exercises are best for your particular situation. Cleaning the house and tidying up the yard certainly counts as exercise. The goal is to get the heart beating and to break a sweat. If exercise ever hurts, stop.

Stress is known to raise blood pressure. Self-medicating with food, alcohol or drugs harms the body in the long term. Learn better ways to manage stress. Some people find exercise is a great way to burn off stress as well as calories. Getting enough sleep is also crucial to managing stress.

Medications are usually not needed as long as the above steps are taken every day by the patient.

Prehypertension Prevention

The best means of preventing prehypertension is to make significant lifestyle changes that will prevent a variety of health disorders. One of the ways this is done is by keeping weight under control. Even being slightly over one’s recommended weight can lead to prehypertension.

Prevention is possible by restricting the total amount of sodium in the diet. Doctors recommend keeping total sodium intake below 1500mg per day for prevention purposes. Also, cut down on the amount of saturated fats and red meat that is consumed. This will keep cholesterol levels low, preventing the development of atherosclerosis.

Becoming active is an important preventative measure. A moderate amount of exercise performed on a regular basis throughout the week will greatly reduce one’s chances of developing prehypertension.

Stress reduction is important. Finding time to relax and unwind is vital to one’s overall health and enjoyment of life.