Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition in which the force exerted by the blood against the artery walls is too high. This leads to an increase in demand for oxygen and nutrients by the heart and other organs. Hypertension can be asymptomatic (without symptoms) at first. The most common symptoms are headaches, a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes. The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.
What is hypertension?
Blood pressure is recorded in two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when your blood pressure increases to unhealthy levels. Your blood pressure measurement considers how much blood is passing through your blood vessels and the amount of resistance the blood meets while the heart is pumping.
Narrow arteries increase resistance. The narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure will be. Over the long term, the increased pressure can cause health issues, including heart disease.
- high blood pressure is considered being 140/90mmHg or higher
- ideal blood pressure is considered being between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- low blood pressure is considered being 90/60mmHg or lower
A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
What are the types of hypertension?
There are two types of hypertension. Each type has a different cause.
Primary hypertension is also called essential hypertension. This kind of hypertension develops over time with no identifiable cause. Most people have this type of high blood pressure.
Researchers are still unclear what mechanisms cause blood pressure to slowly increases. A combination of factors may play a role. These factors include:
- Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from your parents.
- Physical changes: If something in your body changes, you may begin experiencing issues throughout your body. High blood pressure may be one of those issues. For example, it’s thought that changes in your kidney function because of ageing may upset the body’s natural balance of salts and fluid. This change may cause your body’s blood pressure to increase.
- Environment: Over time, unhealthy lifestyle choices like lack of physical activity and poor diet can take their toll on your body. Lifestyle choices can lead to weight problems. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of hypertension.
Secondary hypertension often occurs quickly and can become more severe than primary hypertension. Several conditions that may cause secondary hypertension include:
- kidney disease
- obstructive sleep apnea
- congenital heart defects
- problems with your thyroid
- side effects of medications
- use of illegal drugs
- alcohol abuse or chronic use
- adrenal gland problems
- certain endocrine tumours
What are the causes of hypertension?
In 90 to 95 percent of high blood pressure cases, there’s no identifiable cause. This type of high blood pressure, called essential hypertension or primary hypertension, grows over many years. The other 5 percent to 10 percent of high blood pressure cases are caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure, called secondary hypertension, appears suddenly and causes higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Various conditions can lead to secondary hypertension, including kidney abnormalities, tumours of the adrenal gland, or certain congenital heart defects.
Certain medications, including birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs, may cause secondary hypertension. Various illicit drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines, can also increase blood pressure.
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension is a silent condition. Many people won’t experience any symptoms. It may take years or even decades for the condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become obvious. Even then, these symptoms may be attributed to other issues.
Symptoms of severe hypertension can include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- visual changes
- blood in the urine
These symptoms require immediate medical attention. They don’t occur in everyone with hypertension, but waiting for a symptom of this condition to appear could be fatal.
The best way to know if you have hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings. Most doctors take a blood pressure reading at every appointment.
if you have a family history of heart disease or have risk factors for developing the condition, your doctor may recommend that you have your blood pressure checked thrice a year. This helps you and your doctor stay on top of any potential issues before they become problematic.
What are the risk factors of hypertension (High blood pressure)?
The risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- Heredity Smoking
- Excessive alcohol
Secondary causes include disease conditions that can cause high blood pressure. These are kidney diseases and hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome.
What are the complications of high blood pressure?
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts an extra strain on your blood vessels, heart,kidneys, and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys, and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of several serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia
If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these conditions.
Check your blood pressure regularly
The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test.
All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every four months. Getting this done is easy and could save your life.
If your blood pressure remains high, your doctor will probably conduct more tests to rule out underlying conditions. These tests can include:
- urine test
- cholesterol screening and other blood tests
- test of your heart’s electrical activity with an electrocardiogram (referred to as an ECG)
- ultrasound of your heart or kidneys
These tests can help your doctor identify any secondary issues causing your elevated blood pressure. They can also look at the effects of high blood pressure may have had on your organs.
During this time, your doctor may treat your hypertension. Early treatment may reduce your risk of lasting damage.
How to reduce your high blood pressure?
The following lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure:
- reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a healthy diet
- cut back on alcohol if you drink too much
- lose weight if you’re overweight
- exercise regularly
- cut down on caffeine
- stop smoking
- try to get at least six hours of sleep a night
Some people with high blood pressure may also need to take one or more medicines to stop their blood pressure from getting too high.
What is the treatment for hypertension?
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a normal body weight–reduce if over-weight
- Eating too much salt makes high blood pressure worse. Low-sodium diets are prescribed to help control high blood pressure. These limit the amount of sodium in the diet to less than 2 grams per day (about half the amount of sodium in the average diet)
- Eat a healthy diet containing soluble fibre, such as fruit and vegetables.
- Avoid high-fat foods.
- Avoid coffee and colas
- Do not drink excessive alcohol
- Exercise regularly to keep fit
- Reduce stress and relax after work
- Follow-up regularly with the doctor
Changing your lifestyle can control high blood pressure. But sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough. Besides diet and exercise, the doctor may recommend medication to lower blood pressure. Which category of medication the doctor prescribes depends on the stage of high blood pressure and whether you also have other medical conditions? To reduce the number of doses, you need a day, which can reduce side effects. The doctor may prescribe a combination of low-dose medications rather than larger doses of one drug.
In fact, two or more blood pressure drugs often work better than one. Sometimes finding the most effective medication – or combination of drugs – is a matter of trial and error.
What are the dietary and lifestyle advice to control hypertension?
- Use little or no salt to food
- Develop a taste for low salt in a food
- Do not use table salt
- Avoid fast foods and restaurant foods as they use very high salt
- Avoid ketchup, pickles, olives, all sauces, commercially prepared or cured meats or fish, canned foods (eat fresh foods), salted nuts, peanut butter, chips, popcorn, and snacks
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt for seasoning.
- Use onions, garlic, lemon and lime juice and rind, dill weed, basil, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, or vinegar to enhance the flavour and aroma of foods.
- Mushrooms, dhania, red chillies, green chillies, and dried fruits also enhance specific dishes.
- Add a pinch of sugar or a squeeze of lemon juice to bring out the flavour in fresh vegetables.
- Rinse canned vegetables with tap water before cooking.
- Substitute unsalted, polyunsaturated cooking medium for butter or ghee.
What time of day is blood pressure highest?
Blood pressure is normally lower at night while you’re sleeping. Your blood pressure rises a few hours before you wake up. Your blood pressure continues to rise during the day, usually peaking in the middle of the afternoon. Then in the late afternoon and evening, your blood pressure drops again.
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