Overview – What is it?
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, occurs when there is a consistent high force in your blood, pushing against the walls of your blood vessels.
Untreated or prolonged high blood pressure might damage the fragile tissues in the blood vessels, leading to health conditions such as heart disease and stroke. This condition often has no symptoms and one may not realise its effect on the body.
High blood pressure can be controlled by taking medicines as prescribed by your doctor, limiting alcohol intake, managing stress and maintaining a healthy weight, among other things.
You can prevent yourself from getting hypertension by reducing the risk factors through lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet, not smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Causes – What causes it?
The precise cause of high blood pressure is unclear, but the following are some of the factors known to increase the risk of one getting the disease:
- High salt intake
- Having a close family member who has hypertension
- Alcohol abuse
- Lack of proper diet
- Defects in the blood vessels at birth
- Certain medications
- Other health conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, kidney and thyroid problems
- Being overweight or obese
Symptoms – What do you feel?
High blood pressure can be hard to recognise as the symptoms may be vague, however, one may experience the following if the blood pressure is extremely high:
- Severe headache
- Breathing difficulties and chest pain
- Pounding in your chest, neck or ears
- Nose bleeding
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sweating and anxiety
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
Blood pressure is measured using a pressure measuring gauge which has an inflatable cuff that is usually placed around your arm. The reading usually is given in two numbers, the first number and the second number.
Both numbers measure the pressure in your arteries, the only difference being that the first number measures the pressure in your arteries when the heart beats while the second number measures pressure in your arteries between beats.
The reading is given in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and the measurements can lie in any of the following categories:
- Normal blood pressure: If the measurements read below 120/80 mmHg, you have normal blood pressure.
- Elevated blood pressure: This is when the first number (systolic pressure) reads from 120 to 129 mm Hg and the second number (diastolic pressure) ranges below 80 mm Hg.
If elevated blood pressure is prolonged without being controlled, it may worsen.
- Stage 1 Hypertension: This occurs when the systolic pressure ranges from 130 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranges from 80 to 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 Hypertension: This is when the hypertension is severe with a systolic pressure ranging from 140 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from80 to 89 mm Hg.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
Treatment for hypertensions can be done using:
- Medication: These are used to control the blood pressure and they are usually started with a low dose. However, if your blood pressure is not responding to medication, you may need to be given a combination of medicines. Some of the medication used to treat hypertension include beta-blockers, diuretics and angiotensin receptor blockers.
- Lifestyle changes: Hypertension can also be controlled through lifestyle changes such as regular exercises and a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits as well as by reducing stress.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
- Eating a healthier diet with less salt and more vegetables and fruits
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
- Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you’re overweight or obese
- Controlling stress