Hypertension in simple terms means high or elevated blood pressure.
Blood pressure is measured by a sphygmanometer and the readings are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and are usually given as two numbers. For example 120 over 80 (written as 120/80mmHg). The top number is your systolic pressure, the pressure created when your heart beats. It is considered too high if consistently over 140. The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, the pressure in your blood vessels when the heart is at rest. It is considered high if consistently over 90.
Blood pressure measurements are as a result of the force of the blood produced by the heart and the condition of the arteries.
The factors that affect the blood pressure include:
- The volume of fluid or water in the our bodies
- The condition of our kidneys, nervous systems or blood vessels.
- The levels of our different body hormones
High blood pressure (Hypertension) can affect all ages and types of people. There is a higher chance of developing the disease if you have a family history of the disease. High blood pressure is also more common in people of African descent.
Smoking, Diabetes mellitus and obesity are also risk factors for hypertension.
Causes of Hypertension
In most cases of hypertension a specific cause cannot be identified however sometimes specific conditions can be identified as the cause of a
someone’s hypertension. Some specific causes of hypertension include
- Anxiety and stress
- Kidney disease
- Alcohol Abuse
- High salt intake in a persons diet
- Some specific drugs
- Cocaine use
- Pregnancy (gestational Hypertension)
Symptoms of Hypertension.
Most of the time there are no symptoms. However symptoms may include:
- Chest pains
- Visual changes
- Irregular heartbeats
- Ringing or buzzing in the ear
The Dangers (Complications) of Hypertension.
The danger in hypertension lies in the complications that may arise from persistent uncontrolled hypertension. It can affect almost all the major organs of the body. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:
· Heart Failure.
· Kidney Failure
· Trouble with memory and understanding
· Sudden Death
When to visit your doctor.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should have regularly scheduled appointments with your doctor.
Even if you have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to have your blood pressure checked during your yearly check-up, and anytime you visit the hospital especially if someone in your family has or had high blood pressure.
Visit your health care provider right away if home monitoring shows that your blood pressure remains high or you have any of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Excessive tiredness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe headache
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Vision changes
Prevention of Hypertension.
All adults over 18 should have their blood pressure checked routinely. Automated sphygmanometers are now readily available for personal/domestic use.
Lifestyle changes may help control your blood pressure:
- Lose weight if you are overweight. Excess weight adds to strain on the heart. In some cases, weight loss may be the only treatment needed.
- Exercise regularly. If possible exercise for 30 minutes on most days.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products while reducing total and saturated fat intake.
- Avoid smoking.
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
- Reduce your alcohol intake.
- Try to manage your stress.
Treatment of Hypertension.
The goal of treatment is to reduce and control blood pressure so that you have a lower risk of complications. There are many different medicines that can be used to treat high blood pressure. Often, a single blood pressure drug may not be enough to control your blood pressure, and you may need to take two or more drugs. It is very important that you take the medications prescribed to you. If you have side effects, your health care provider can substitute a different medication. Your doctor may also tell you to exercise, lose weight, and follow a healthier diet.
Remember Prevention is better than cure especially as most cases of hypertension can only be controlled and not cured.
Dr. Olukayode Williams