Hypertension is one of the most common ailments that plagues every socioeconomic strata. The stressful lifestyle only adds to the misery and makes hypertension or more commonly known as high blood pressure part of every household.
Hypertension is a long term health condition which is identified with a persistently elevated blood pressure level for a long period of time.
Blood pressure is defined as the volume of blood heart pumps. Blood pressure is expressed by two measurements:
- Systolic or maximum pressure
- Diastolic or minimum pressure
For most adults, the blood pressure lies within the range of 100-130millimetres mercury [mmHg]systolic and 60-80millimetres mercury[mmHg]diastolic. This signifies the normal blood pressure in a healthy individual. The blood pressure is considered to be high if the values are high above 130/80 mm Hg persistently.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension typically causes no clinical symptoms but can lead to severe complications and also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and eventually death. Thus, it is also known as a condition that kills silently.
Majority of people get no clinical symptoms in spite of having consistently high blood pressure. Some people may show certain non-specific symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath/difficulty in breathing
- Fatigue and confusion
- Vision problems like blurred or double vision
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pounding in chest or ears
- Heart palpitations
- Blood in urine
Untreated hypertension can lead to several serious diseases which can be life threatening. These include:
- Eye problems
- Kidney disorders
- Erectile dysfunction
- Cardiovascular problems
Symptoms occur due to sudden blood pressure spikes which is considered as hypertensive crisis. High blood pressure can cause seizures in pregnant women which causes a condition called preeclampsia which can lead to complications in pregnancy and birth.
Hypertension is classified into two types clinically;
- Primary hypertension-it has no specific cause but results from genetic and environmental factors.
- Secondary hypertension-it may result due to systemic diseases like endocrine conditions or kidney diseases and as such
Causes of Hypertension
The cause of hypertension is often not known. The primary risk factors which contribute to the increased chance of having hypertension include the following:
- Hypertension is more commonly found in the age group of over sixty. The age associated plaque build-up in blood vessels may contribute to increase in the blood pressure
- Men are more prone to have hypertension at a younger age although hypertension affects both males and females equally.
- Some ethnic groups are more prone to hypertension.
- Obese and overweight people are more liable to get hypertension
- Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to hypertension
- Tobacco use and smoking are another contributing factors
- A person suffering from cardiovascular diseases are more prone to hypertension
- Diabetics are more susceptible to the evils of hypertension
- Chronic kidney diseases are another causing factors
- High cholesterol levels in blood cause arteries to get narrower and lead to hypertension
The secondary factors include:
- A sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise contribute to hypertension.
- Diet rich in high levels of cholesterol
- High sodium or high salt intake
- Diet having low potassium content
- Consumption of refined and processed food
- Use of certain medications may cause or act as a risk factor for hypertension
- Sleep apnoea
- Thyroid and adrenal dysfunction
- Genetic factors or a family history of hypertension
Diagnosis of Hypertension
Hypertension is diagnosed on the basis of persistently high resting blood pressure. The most popular way to diagnose high blood pressure is to have it measured. The sphygmomanometer is the device used to read blood pressure.
During the test; the cuff of the sphygmomanometer is placed around the arm and the arm is held out at the level of the heart. The cuff is pumped up and the pressure in the cuff is slowly released. The detectors sense the vibrations in the arteries. The blood pressure is recorded at two points which is used to give the blood pressure reading.
The unit of measurement for blood pressure reading is millilitres of mercury[mmHg] which has two numbers The upper number measures the systolic pressure and the lower number measures the diastolic pressure. The blood pressure measurements are divided into four clinical categories;
- The blood pressure is considered normal if the reading is below 120/80 mmHg.
- If the systolic pressure ranges from120 to 129mmHg and diastolic pressure is below 80 mmHg the blood pressure is considered to be elevated.
- Systolic pressure from 130 to 139mmHg and diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89mmHg signifies Stage 1 hypertension.
- If the systolic pressure is higher than 140 mmHg and diastolic pressure is 90mmHg or higher is identified as Stage 2 hypertension.
Hypertension does not have any initial symptoms but if untreated it can lead to various health -related problems. Treating hypertension should have a multipronged approach including diet changes medication and exercise. Along with the medication recommended by the physician, certain changes in the lifestyle are required for the treatment of hypertension:
- Weight management in obese and overweight patients.
- Proper management of systemic diseases which may act as a contributing factor high blood pressure.
- Adequate physical activity and exercise.
- Maintaining regular appointments with the doctor and taking the required medications.
- Self monitoring of BP at home to keep a track of the changes in blood pressure
- Avoid alcohol abuse
- Avoiding smoking and tobacco
- Stress management
- Maintaining a healthy diet which is low in sodium and calories. Follow the DASH diet which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension which includes eating fruits ,vegetables and low-fat dairy foods
- Maintaining a low sodium and low salt diet.
- Avoiding processed food which contain high amounts of refined carbs
- Cutting back on cholesterol and high fat in diet. Avoiding red meat and sweets
- High potassium in diet
- Cutting back on caffeine