Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the arteries persistently raise blood pressure to unusual levels. This means that there is a high force of blood pushing up against the blood vessels, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood properly. Hypertension often leads to damaged organs, as well as other illnesses, such as kidney failure, stroke and heart attack.
Normal blood pressure reading is 120/80mmHG. The first reading refers to systolic pressure, measured when the heart muscle contracts, and the second diastolic, when the muscle relaxes. An individual with blood pressure of over 140/90mmHG is said to have mild hypertension and over 160/100mmHG severe hypertension. Mild hypertension can easily be managed with drugs and lifestyle change, but severe hypertension needs careful monitoring and regular medication, as can be fatal or disabling if not well controlled.
Hypertension is classified as essential or secondary. Essential hypertension refers to high blood pressure whose cause is unknown. Most people suffering from hypertension are in this category. Secondary hypertension refers to high blood pressure with a known direct cause, such as kidney disease or birth control pills. There are several known causes for hypertension and being aware of these can help you eliminate the disease or keep it under control.
What causes hypertension?
Although it is difficult to know the exact cause of hypertension, there are several factors that are often associated with it. They include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Severe headaches
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise leading to an inactive lifestyle
- Birth control pills
- Irregular heart beat
- High salt intake
- High levels of alcohol consumption
- Chronic kidney disease
Symptoms of hypertension…
Hypertension does not always present symptoms and it is therefore advisable to undergo blood pressure screenings from time to time even when one feels healthy. This is because a person can suffer from hypertension for years without knowing and this can be extremely dangerous. However, hypertension often manifests itself in other health problems, such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Prevention and management…
Hypertension can be prevented or managed in several ways:
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Being overweight and stressed puts you at a high risk of developing hypertension. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly.
Reduce salt intake. Cut back on salt intake and reduce consumption of processed meats, and other products, which tend to be overly salted. It is advisable to add a little salt to food during cooking as opposed to salting it on the table.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Cut it out altogether or limit your intake to two drinks a day for men and one for women. Also, quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
Reduce stress. Although life comes with its fair share of issues, it is important to take it easy and avoid stress and worry, which can make your blood pressure go up.
In order to manage hypertension it is vital to have it monitored regularly and if on medication ensure you take it as instructed by your doctor.
Any one over the age of 18 years should have their blood pressure checked at least once every two years. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or cardiovascular risk factors, you might be advised to get your blood pressure checked more often. When high blood pressure is diagnosed, it’s crucial to work closely with your doctor to get it under control. You should have regular checkups to monitor how well treatment is working on you and also discuss any concerns that may arise.
The doctor may recommend you to buy a home blood pressure monitor, which you should use on a regular basis, say, morning and evening to monitor yourself. These gadgets are not expensive and are found in most pharmacies.
Published in January 2013