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Increased Heart Rate & Hypertension

By Rachel Morgan

Being diagnosed with hypertension, or high blood pressure, isn't uncommon. Nearly a third -- 32 percent -- of Americans over the age of 20 are hypertensive, according to 2009 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Having high blood pressure can be both a cause and an effect of other health problems. Although many individuals do not have any symptoms, you may experience heart rate irregularities that signal an abnormal blood pressure level.

Understanding Hypertension

Your blood pressure is based on the amount of blood your heart pumps and its force on the arterial walls. Your blood pressure is given in two numbers: the systolic and the diastolic. The systolic reading -- the top number -- is a measure of the pressure as your heart beats. The diastolic number refers to the pressure when your heart is at rest between beats. Normal blood pressure is under 120/80 mm Hg; however, it's ideal to have a blood pressure under 115/75 mm Hg. Hypertension is diagnosed when your pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher.

Heart Rate & Blood Pressure

Having an increased heart rate doesn't mean you have high blood pressure. Your heart rate speeds up when you are engaged in physical activity so that more blood is pumped to the muscles throughout your body. Your blood pressure does not increase significantly as a result of the process if you are healthy. In fact, your heart rate can double and still not cause a major blood pressure increase, according to the American Heart Association. However, having an arrhythmia can cause a rapid heart rate and heartbeat irregularities. Both hypertension and heart disease can cause you to develop these heart palpitations.

Health Risks

See your physician if you are continually having an increased heart rate or irregular heartbeats. Leaving hypertension untreated is a serious threat to your health. It affects how your brain, eyes and kidneys function. Having high blood pressure increases your risk of having a heart attack, aneurysm or stroke. While an arrhythmia is often not dangerous in itself, its effects on the heart can be life-threatening in some cases. Irregular beating may affect how your heart pumps blood, leading to the development of blood clots. Prolonged dysfunction due to a rapid heart rate can lead to heart failure.

Treatment Methods

Beta blocker medications are commonly prescribed to treat hypertension. They reduce the strain on your heart by opening the blood vessels and slowing your heart rate. Other treatment options include diuretics, calcium channel blockers and other drugs that relax your blood vessels. Changes in your lifestyle are also essential for managing blood pressure. Your physician will likely discuss the importance of regular exercise, eating a healthy diet low in salt and losing excess weight. You should also stop smoking if you have hypertension.

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