Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. It can lead to severe complications and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death. Blood Pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels. The pressure depends on the work being done by the heart and the resistance of the blood vessels.
Medical guidelines define hypertension as a blood pressure higher than 130 over 80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), according to guidelines issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) in November 2017.
Around 85 million people in the United States have High Blood Pressure.
Hypertension and Heart Deseases are global health concerns. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that the growth of the processed food industry has impacted the amount of salt in diets worldwide, and that this plays a role in hypertension.
Fast facts on hypertension:
Here are some key points about hypertension. More detail is in the main article.
- Normal blood pressure is 120 over 80 mm of mercury (mmHg), but hypertension is higher than 130 over 80 mmHg.
- Acute causes of high blood pressure include stress, but it can happen on its own, or it can result from an underlying condition, such as kidney disease.
- Unmanaged hypertension can lead to a heart attack, stroke and other problems.
- Lifestyle factors are the best way to address high blood pressure.
Avoiding stress, or developing strategies for managing unavoidable stress, can help with blood pressure control. Using alcohol, drugs, smoking, and unhealthy eating to cope with stress will add to hypertensive problems. These should be avoided. Smoking can raise blood pressure. Giving up smoking reduces the risk of hypertension, heart conditions, and other health issues.
People with blood pressure higher than 130 over 80 may use medication to treat hypertension. Drugs are usually started one at a time at a low dose. Side effects associated with antihypertensive drugs are usually minor. Eventually, a combination of at least two antihypertensive drugs is usually required.
A range of drug types are available to help lower blood pressure, including:
- diuretics, including thiazides, chlorthalidone, and indapamide
- brta-blockers and alpha-blockers
- calcium-channel blockers
- central agonists
- peripheral adrenergic inhibitor
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- angiotensin receptor blockers
The choice of drug depends on the individual and any other conditions they may have. Anyone taking antihypertensive medications should be sure to carefully read labels, especially before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as decongestants. These may interact with medications used to lower blood pressure.
The cause of hypertension is often not known. Around 1 in every 20 cases of hypertension is the effect of an underlying condition or medication. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a common cause of high blood pressure because the kidneys do not filter out fluid. This fluid excess leads to hypertension.
A number of risk factors increase the chances of having hypertension.
- Age: Hypertension is more common in people aged over 60 years. With age, blood pressure can increase steadily as the arteries become stiffer and narrower due to plaque build-up.
- Ethnicity: Some ethnic groups are more prone to hypertension.
- Size and weight: Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor.
- Alcohol and tobacco use: Consuming large amounts of alcohol regularly can increase a person’s blood pressure, as can smoking tobacco.
- Sex: The lifetime risk is the same for males and females, but men are more prone to hypertension at a younger age. The prevalence tends to be higher in older women.
- Existing health conditions: Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and high cholesterol levels can lead to hypertension, especially as people get older.
Other contributing factors include:
- physical inactivity
- a salt-rich diet associated with processed and fatty foods
- low potassium in the diet
- Alcohol and tobacco usecertain diseases and medications
- A family history of high blood pressure and poorly managed stress can also contribute.
Blood pressure can be measured by a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure monitor. Having high blood pressure for a short time can be a normal response to many situations. Acute stress and intense exercise, for example, can briefly elevate blood pressure in a healthy person.
For this reason, a diagnosis of hypertension normally requires several readings that show high blood pressure over time.
The systolic reading of 130 mmHg refers to the pressure as the heart pumps blood around the body. The diastolic reading of 80 mmHg refers to the pressure as the heart relaxes and refills with blood.
A person with hypertension may not notice any symptoms, and it is often called the “silent killer.” While undetected, it can casue damage to the cardiovascular system and internal organs, such as the kidneys.
Regularly checking your blood pressure is vital, as there will usually be no symptoms to make you aware of the condition.
It is maintained that high blood pressure causes sweating, anxiety, sleeping problems, and blushing. However, in most cases, there will be no symptoms at all.
If blood pressure reaches the level of a hypertensive crisis, a person may experience headache and nosebleeds.
Long-term hypertension can cause complications through atherosclerosis, where the formation of plaque results in the narrowing of blood vessels. This makes hypertension worse, as the heart must pump harder to deliver blood to the body.
Hypertension-related atherosclerosis can lead to:
- Heart failure and heart attacks
- an aneurysm or an abnormal bulge in the wall of an artery that can burst, causing severe bleeding and, in some cases, death
- kidney failure
- hypertensive retinopathies in the eye, which can lead to blindness
Regular blood pressure testing can help people avoid the more severe complications.
Some types of hypertension can be managed through lifestyle and dietary choices, such as engaging in physical activity, reducing alcohol and tobacco use, and avoiding a high-sodium diet.
Reducing the amount of salt
Average salt intake is between 9 grams (g) and 12 g per day in most countries around the world.
Reducing the amount of salt : Average salt intake is between 9 grams (g) and 12 g per day in most countries around the world. The WHO recommends reducing intake to less than 5gm a day, to help decrease the risk of hypertension and related health problems.
Moderating alcohol consumption
Moderate to excessive alcohol consumption is linked to raised blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke.The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend a maximum of two drinks a day for men, and one for women.
The following would count as one drink:
- 12 ounce (oz.) bottle of beer
- 4 oz. of wine
- 5 oz. of 80-proof spirits
- 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits
A healthcare provider can help people who find it difficult to cut back.
Eating more fruit and vegetables and less fat
People who have or who are at risk of high blood pressure are advised to eat as little saturated and total fat as possible.
Recommended instead are:
- whole-grain, high-fiber foods
- a variety of fruit and vegetables
- beans, pulses, and nuts
- omega-3-rich fish twice a week
- non-tropical vegetable oils, for example, olive oil
- skinless poultry and fish
- low-fat dairy products
It is important to avoid trans-fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and animal fats, and to eat portions of moderate size.
Managing body weight
Hypertension is closely related to excess body weight, and weight reduction is normally followed by a fall in blood pressure. A healthy, balanced diet with a calorie intake that matches the individual’s size, sex, and activity level will help.
The DASH diet
The U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends the DASH diet for people with high blood pressure. DASH, or “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” has been specially designed to help people lower their blood pressure.
It is a flexible and balanced eating plan based on research studies sponsored by the Institute, which says that the diet:
- lowers high blood pressure
- improves levels of fats in the bloodstream
- reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease
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