Hypertension: increased blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition that many people suffer from temporarily or chronically. High blood pressure is unhealthy in several respects. There are a number of factors that directly or indirectly initiate or perpetuate hypertension. People with obesity in particular appear to regularly have elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure is a condition that is usually easily remedied if you take good care and seek expert medical help.


  • The ingredients of blood pressure
  • What is normal blood pressure?
  • Hypertension: increased blood pressure
  • Causes of hypertension
  • The consequences of hypertension
  • Symptoms of increased blood pressure
  • Treatment of hypertension
  • Preventing high blood pressure


The ingredients of blood pressure

Our heart, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels ensure that every cell in our body is supplied with all the necessities. The most important ingredient in the blood is oxygen . The driving factor behind this flow of amenities is the heart. By contracting the heart muscle, the blood is pumped through the blood vessels. After each contraction (called a contraction ), the heart muscle relaxes again for about 0.8 seconds, during which the heart muscle can fill with blood again. And so the circle begins again.
This process is necessary because oxygen is essential for maintaining the body. Without oxygen, nutrients cannot be burned, the organs have no energy and cannot function, causing them to fail.

The circulatory system

The circulatory system consists of two types of circulatory systems : the large circulatory system and the small circulatory system. The small circulatory system runs through the right ventricle , where the blood ends up that has already passed through the body cells and is therefore depleted of oxygen. This is pumped to the lungs via the pulmonary artery. The circulatory system pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the left ventricle , from where it is pumped through the body via the aorta .

The blood pressure

The force with which blood is pumped into the arteries is called the systolic or upper pressure . The pressure in arteries during the resting phase is called the diastolic or negative pressure . The heart contracts an average of 78 times per minute and then relaxes again. This pumps about 5 liters of blood through the body.

The blood vessels

The arteries are made of very strong and solid material to absorb the shocks produced during the pumping of blood. At the beginning of the arteries the pressure is greatest, to branch with less and less pressure until they finally empty into the capillaries or capillaries , the smallest blood vessels into which the arteries branch. From these capillaries, the vessels dilate back into blood vessels until they meet again in the left ventricle.

Raised blood pressure

When an artery is (partially) blocked by, for example, the narrowing effect of coffee and smoking on the arteries, the heart has to work harder to reach the organs behind it. This causes increased blood pressure .

Measuring blood pressure

determine the pulse pressure by measuring the blood pressure in the upper arm . This is the difference between systolic pressure and diastolic pressure . The difference between these is usually about 40 mm of mercury pressure. 120 and 80 mm of mercury pressure is often referred to as ‘120 over 80’.

What is normal blood pressure?

It is difficult to give an indication of normal blood pressure . The optimal blood pressure depends on several factors, including age, race, gender and area of residence.


In babies, the systolic pressure is about 70 to 80. Around puberty this is around 110. Adults usually have a systolic pressure of between 120 and 135, and a negative pressure or diastolic pressure of 80 to 95. Blood pressure therefore increases with the age.

Race, habitat and climate

20% of American residents have high blood pressure, often without even knowing it. Italy and Finland also have high average blood pressure. Countries with a lower percentage are Greece and Japan. This is partly due to the phenomenon that your blood vessels narrow in extreme cold. In the Netherlands, approximately 20% of the population has elevated blood pressure.


Women more often have elevated blood pressure, the ratio is approximately 3:2. However, there are more deaths from myocardial infarction in men. The female hormones may have a protective effect.

Hypertension: increased blood pressure

High blood pressure increases the risk of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Systolic pressure (above pressure)

Increased chance


3x as much chance


5 x as much chance


8 x as much chance


The level of blood pressure

The level of blood pressure is determined by three factors:

  1. The so-called cardiac output: the amount of blood pumped per minute
  2. The width of the passage of the arteries (the lumen)
  3. The thickness of the blood (also called viscosity)

How is blood pressure controlled?
The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system together regulate the heart rate and the muscle tension of the blood vessel wall.
The sympathetic nervous system activates in response to tension, fright and fear . An extra amount of the hormone norepinephrine is produced and released in the adrenal glands, which causes increased blood pressure. Then, so-called baroreceptors , small organs that are sensitive to (high) blood pressure, send a message to the brain that the blood pressure is too high, causing the parasympathetic nervous system to activate to restore balance, causing blood pressure to drop again .
Permanently elevated blood pressure can be caused by several factors, including prolonged stress. This makes the baroreceptors less sensitive, which means they take effect less quickly.

Forms of increased blood pressure

Increased blood pressure is a side effect of an underlying disorder or disease. This in itself can trigger other diseases such as a cerebral hemorrhage.
The forms of elevated blood pressure are distinguished based on their cause and appearance:

  • Essential hypertension: elevated blood pressure without a clearly identifiable cause
  • Secondary hypertension: increased blood pressure with a clearly identifiable cause


  • Benign hypertension (benign)
  • Malignant hypertension (malignant)


Benign hypertension

If you have moderately elevated blood pressure and it does not rise further, this is called benign hypertension. Sometimes this can be changed, sometimes not. High blood pressure without an identifiable cause can usually be treated with medication.

Malignant hypertension

In malignant hypertension, the entire blood vessel wall is often already affected. The negative pressure rises fastest to about 130 and then remains that high. Characteristics of malignant hypertension include headache, visual disturbances, shortness of breath, confusion, paralysis and twitching of arms and legs. With malignant hypertension, rapid medical attention is necessary, otherwise serious brain damage may occur.

Causes of hypertension

There are various causes of secondary hypertension. The cause is often a condition that directly or indirectly increases blood pressure.

The kidneys and hypertension

When arteriosclerosis has occurred in a vein leading to the kidneys, the kidneys respond by secreting renin . This substance causes blood pressure to rise. It may also be that the adrenal glands have created a build-up of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, which spontaneously burst and cause a temporary overdose of these hormones in the body. This can also increase blood pressure, especially due to adrenaline. Finally, the adrenal cortex can produce an excess of cortisol , a hormone secreted during stress, which leads to an increase in blood pressure.

The thyroid gland and hypertension

Due to a thyroid condition in which the thyroid gland has increased activity, hyperthyroidism , the heart rhythm is accelerated, ultimately resulting in higher blood pressure.

The brain and hypertension

If there is a disorder of the pituitary gland , problems with the kidneys may arise. The pituitary gland is an appendage of the brain that, among other things, regulates hormone release in the kidneys.

Nutrition and hypertension

When you eat too much fatty food , your arteries can clog, making it harder for blood to flow. High blood pressure is up to 2.5 times more common in overweight people .
Too much salt can also lead to increased blood pressure. This is because too much salt remains in the cells, which in turn attracts water. This causes the cells to swell and the space in the veins to narrow, which hinders the passage of blood.
Alcohol has no direct influence on blood pressure. Alcohol does promote arteriosclerosis , which can lead to increased blood pressure.
Certain medications can also influence the level of blood pressure. This is stated in the package leaflet of the relevant medication.

Stress and hypertension

Feelings of stress cause an increased release of hormones in the kidneys, especially cortisol. And cortisol again has a blood pressure-raising effect .

Pregnancy and hypertension

The total blood volume increases by approximately 1 liter during pregnancy . Most women are not bothered by this, but in some women the blood vessel walls are not able to cope with it. This mainly occurs in older women.
In some women, pre-eclampsia (preeclampsia) occurs. This is accompanied by fluid retention and greatly increased blood pressure. Immediate medical attention is necessary.

The contraceptive pill and hypertension

In some women, the use of the contraceptive pill , especially in the first three months of use, causes (slightly) increased blood pressure. When you stop taking the pill, blood pressure drops again.

The consequences of hypertension

The course and consequences of hypertension depend mainly on the location and degree of damage in the veins. The degree of damage is strongly related to the duration of the blood pressure increase.

Abnormalities of the heart muscle

When blood pressure increases, the heart muscle has to work harder. A healthy heart can temporarily absorb this. The heart muscle then increases in size and strength, this is called hypertrophy . However, this is not healthy, because the heart keeps getting bigger and its elasticity decreases. This is mainly the case with the left heart muscle.

Blood vessel abnormalities

The increased blood pressure causes the blood vessel walls to thicken and tighten. At a certain point, with prolonged high blood pressure, they can hardly relax. The result is a certain type of arteriosclerosis: atherosclerosis . The smaller veins in particular suffer from this and the systolic pressure rises. An aneurysm can also occur because the blood vessel twists and turns to allow blood to pass through.
Around the heart itself, the increased blood pressure can cause angina pectoris or even a heart attack . If elevated blood pressure persists and arteriosclerosis has occurred, the risk of thrombosis (clot formation) increases.

Symptoms of increased blood pressure


Hypersensitivity to heat and cold



Nausea and vomiting



Angina pectoris

Shortness of breath


Treatment of hypertension

There are three commonly used medications to treat high blood pressure.

Water pills

Diuretics stimulate the kidneys to process urine more quickly, which reduces the fluid content in the body.

Beta blockers

Beta-blockers act on the brain and heart. They provide relaxation. Beta blockers are a type of stress reducer .

Norepinephrine inhibitors

Norepinephrine increases blood pressure. Medication that inhibits the production of norepinephrine therefore has a positive effect on blood pressure.
What regularly occurs when treating hypertension with medication is the blood pressure falling too quickly , for example when you get up. This can cause ‘black spots’ in front of the eyes and the feeling of fainting. If these symptoms occur frequently, you should contact a specialist.

Preventing high blood pressure

There are several ways to prevent hypertension. However, if one already has hypertension, one should seek expert guidance from a physician.

  1. Smoking less: a single cigarette every now and then won’t do any harm, but smoking too much is also bad for your blood pressure
  2. Limit salt consumption and do not eat too much (salty) licorice
  3. Use alcohol in moderation
  4. Limit coffee to 3 to 4 cups per day, as well as tea
  5. Limit the use and intake of too many fatty foods
  6. Ensure regular exercise, this is good for relaxation and muscle strengthening
  7. Avoid and limit stress
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