Although it usually has no symptoms, hypertension (high blood pressure) is a disease with potentially deadly consequences. Along with a continuously high pulse rate, it may signal an underlying heart condition.
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Pulse Rate Features
A pulse rate is the number of heartbeats per minute. In a resting state, a pulse rate normally ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute for children over 10 and adults. Well-trained athletes typically have pulse rate values between 40 and 60 beats per minute. Tachycardia is the medical term for consistently high resting heart rates.
Blood Pressure Features
Blood pressure readings always contain two values given in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). The top (first) number is the systolic pressure, which is recorded when the heart beats. The bottom (second) number is the diastolic pressure, or blood pressure of the resting heart. Readings are categorised as follows:
• Normal blood pressure: 120/80mm Hg or lower • Pre-hypertension: top number between 120 and 139mm Hg, or bottom number between 80 and 89mm Hg • High blood pressure (hypertension): 140/90mm Hg or higher
High Pulse Rate Causes
When the body is under stress, it responds by increasing the heartbeat to meet energy demands. A high pulse can therefore be expected in cases of anxiety, heavy exercise, and pregnancy. Other conditions that may cause a high pulse rate include: fever, serious infections, anaemia, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), pulmonary embolism, certain medications, haemorrhage (blood loss), and dehydration. Elevated heart rates can also be associated with high blood pressure and fluid overload in the body.
High Blood Pressure Causes
According to the American Heart Association, in 90 to 95 per cent of cases, the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. This is referred to as "primary hypertension." In such cases, however, contributing factors include: a hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), thickening of arterial walls, or the excessive contraction of the small arteries.
Remaining cases, which have known causes, constitute "secondary hypertension." Possible causes of secondary hypertension include: kidney disorders, a tumour of the adrenal gland, or a defect of the aorta (a major artery). High blood pressure can also result from an excessive accumulation of salt inside cells, or an insufficient production of substances that normally dilate smal blood vessels. The stress of visiting a physician's office may also cause high blood pressure in a person with otherwise normal levels. This is called "white coat hypertension."
An active lifestyle is important to obtain and maintain both a healthy high blood pressure and pulse. Risk-reducing measures include: losing excess weight, physical exercise, stress reduction, smoking cessation, and avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol or salt.
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