High blood pressure (hypertension) is a widespread disorder. A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or less. Unfortunately, almost half of all American adults have blood pressures higher than 120/80 mmHg or are taking medications to manage their high blood pressure. Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and dementia.
Most people with high diastolic pressure also have high systolic pressure. Sometimes, the systolic pressure is normal, but the diastolic is high. When this happens, it’s called isolated diastolic hypertension (IDH.) IDH occurs in approximately 20 percent of people with hypertension.
High diastolic pressure, with or without high systolic pressure, has unique risks. People with high diastolic pressure are more likely to suffer from a life-threatening condition called an aortic aneurysm. Even a slight elevation in diastolic pressure increases the risk of cognitive impairment or dementia. Young and older adults are also at greater risk of heart disease and strokes related to high diastolic pressure.
What is Diastolic Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure readings measure the force of your heart as it pushes blood through your circulatory system. The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which measures how hard your heart has to contract when it beats. Diastolic pressure measures the tension in your arteries (the big blood vessels that move oxygenated blood through your body) when the heart relaxes between beats.
What Does the Diastolic Blood Pressure Number Mean?
Diastolic pressure provides information about the health of your arteries. Having a normal diastolic pressure between 60 and 80 mmHg demonstrates that your arteries are sufficiently relaxed and unobstructed to allow the easy passage of blood.
When the diastolic pressure exceeds 80 mmHg, it indicates that the arteries aren’t sufficiently relaxing after the heart beats and might not be flexible enough to easily accommodate the blood flow from the heart. There are numerous potential causes for increased diastolic pressure.
What are the Causes of High Diastolic Blood Pressure?
Modifiable Risk Factors
Smoking is a significant risk factor for developing high blood pressure. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict temporarily, hindering blood flow. People who smoke the most tend to have the highest increases in diastolic blood pressure.
There is a correlation between obesity and the development of stiff arteries and high diastolic blood pressure. A high body mass index (BMI) is a strong indicator of risk for developing high blood pressure. People who carry their weight in their abdomen are at even higher risk.
3. Alcohol consumption
Heavy alcohol consumption causes an elevation in diastolic blood pressure. The more alcohol consumed, the higher the diastolic blood pressure becomes.
Unmodifiable Risk Factors
1. Family history of hypertension
Because hypertension has some genetic causes, if your family members have hypertension, you are also more likely to. One study found that people with a family history of high blood pressure were about 1.4 times more likely to develop it at some point.
2. Previous heart attack
If you have heart damage from a previous coronary event, you are at greater risk of hypertension. An extensive research study found that approximately 50 percent of people developed high blood pressure 16 months after they had endured a heart attack.
The risk of developing high blood pressure rises with age. Almost 75 percent of people with hypertension are 60 or over, and only 22 percent are under 40. Interestingly, young and middle-aged people are more likely to have IDH than older adults.
Biologic sex is a risk factor for developing hypertension. Men are more likely to have diastolic hypertension than women. They also account for 51 percent of adults with hypertension until a certain age. After menopause, women’s high blood pressure rates tend to equal or surpass men’s.
People with diabetes mellitus, both insulin-dependent, and non-insulin-dependent, are more likely to have high blood pressure. In fact, they are twice as likely as others to have hypertension.
6. Abnormal thyroid levels
People with either high thyroid (hyperthyroid) or low thyroid (hypothyroid) levels are at greater risk of developing hypertension.
7. Kidney disease
Kidney disease can increase the risk of high blood pressure if the kidneys aren’t receiving sufficient blood flow. Low blood flow to the kidneys triggers an increase in the levels of a hormone that raises blood pressure. High blood pressure caused this way is called renal hypertension.
What are the Symptoms of High Diastolic Blood Pressure?
Elevated blood pressure is infamous for not having any symptoms. More than 86 percent of participants with IDH in one study were asymptomatic and had not received treatment for their high blood pressure.
Severe diastolic hypertension can sometimes cause symptoms, but not always. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention:
- Severe headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vision changes
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent nosebleed
The only way to be sure that you have high blood pressure is to get your blood pressure measured by a healthcare professional or at home with a reliable blood pressure device.
An improved diet can improve blood pressure by supporting weight loss and providing essential nutrients for cardiovascular health, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Healthcare providers often recommend the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) for people with hypertension. This diet is low in saturated fats and sodium and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The Mediterranean diet is also an excellent option for those with high blood pressure.
2. Physical Activity
Physical activity is well-known to improve health and lower blood pressure. It’s good for your heart and can help you maintain a healthy weight. Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days is recommended.
3. Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking will eliminate many health risks. Although former smokers might still have high blood pressure, it will probably be easier to manage than if they continued smoking. Also, quitting smoking takes a tremendous burden off the cardiovascular system and reduces risks for hypertension, like hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis.)
4. Drink Less Alcohol
5. Prescription Medications
If lifestyle and non-pharmaceutical solutions don’t get you the desired results, anti-hypertensive medications are highly effective at controlling diastolic hypertension. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine which medication would work best for you.
6. Work Closely With Your Doctor
Get the medical care you need to effectively treat and manage underlying diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, and thyroid disorders. This will help minimize the effect of these disorders on your blood pressure.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can do a lot to protect your health and get your blood pressure under control. Eat as many nutritious, whole foods as you can. Get plenty of daily exercise. Quit smoking, and drink alcohol moderately, if at all. You can also talk to your doctor about medications that could help.
Possibly, depending on the cause. High diastolic pressure can sometimes be cured with weight loss, regular physical activity, and a healthy diet. A cure is unlikely if genetic factors or another health condition are at the root of your high blood pressure. No matter the underlying cause, you can usually manage hypertension with the correct medications alongside lifestyle adjustments.
If the average of two diastolic blood pressure readings taken at different times is 80 mmHg or higher, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Don’t panic, but addressing your elevated pressure as soon as possible is important.
If your diastolic pressure is 120 mmHg or higher, it is an emergency, especially if you are experiencing symptoms. Go to the emergency room for immediate care.
Elevated diastolic blood pressure usually has no symptoms and can damage your health if left untreated. It’s possible to manage high blood pressure with diet and activity level adjustments, reduced consumption of nicotine and alcohol products, and anti-hypertensive medications. Work with your healthcare provider to determine the best way to treat your blood pressure.
To learn more about high blood pressure and strategies for addressing it, take a look at Health Web Magazine’s blood pressure archives. Here you can also find information about products such as Vazopril, a supplement full of ingredients clinically proven to help regulate blood pressure. There are numerous positive consumer reviews about the beneficial impact Vazopril can have on blood pressure. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.