Hypertension can also be referred to as high blood pressure. This is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. Arteries are vessels that carry blood from the pumping heart to all the tissues and organs of the body. This requires the heart to work harder than normal to circulate blood through the blood vessels. Blood pressure is measured in two ways; systolic and diastolic which depend on whether the heart is contracting (systole) or relaxed between beats (diastole).
Normal blood pressure at rest is within the range of 100-140mmHg systolic and 60-90mmHg diastolic. Hypertension is defined as a consistently elevated blood pressure exceeding 140/90 mmHg.
Hypertension can be either primary (essential) or secondary hypertension.
Primary or Essential hypertension: It is the most common. About 90-95% cases of hypertension are categorized as primary hypertension which means high blood pressure with no obvious underlying medical cause. In contemporaries’ societies, blood pressure rises with aging which increases the risk of becoming hypertensive later in life. Hypertension results from a complex interaction of genes and environmental factors.
The genetic basis of hypertension is still poorly understood. Several environmental factors influence blood pressure. Life style factors that lower blood pressure include reduced dietary salt intake, increased consumption of fruits and low fats products, exercise, weight loss and reduced alcohol intake.
Secondary hypertension: 5-10% of cases are caused by other conditions that affect the kidney, arteries, heart or endocrine system.
The blood pressure usually is measured with a small, portable instrument called a blood pressure cuff (sphygmanometer). The instruments measure the blood pressure in units called Millimeters of Mercury (mmHg).
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Uncomplicated high blood pressure usually occurs without any symptoms (silently) and it is labeled “Silent Killer”. It is called this because the disease can progress to finally develop any one or more of the several potentially fatal complications such as strokes or heart attacks. Extremely high blood pressure may lead to none symptom which includes:
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Chest pains
- Breathing problem
- Blood in urine
- Irregular heart beat
LIFE SYLE MODIFICATIONS BENEFICIARY IN TREATING BLOOD PRESSURE
Life style modifications refer to certain specific recommendation for changes in habits, diet and exercise. These modifications can lower the blood pressure medications
ALCOHOL: People who drink alcohol excessively have a one and a half to two times increase in the prevalence of hypertension. The association between alcohol and high blood pressure is particularly noticeable when alcohol intake exceeds five drinks per day. The connection is a dose-related phenomenon. In other words, the more alcohol consumed, the stronger is the link with hypertension.
SMOKING: Smoking increases the risk of vascular complications (e.g. heart disease and stroke) in people who already have hypertension. Cigarette smoking can repeatedly produce an immediate, temporary rise in the blood pressure of 5 to 10 mmHg. Steady smokers however may have a lower blood pressure than non smokers. The reason for this is that nicotine in cigarettes causes a decreased in appetite, which leads to weight loss. This in turn lowers blood pressure.
COFFEE AND CAFFEINATED BEVERAGES: The combinations of smoking and drinking coffee in persons with high blood pressure may increase the blood pressure more than coffee alone. Limiting caffeine intake and caffeine intake and cigarette smoking in hypertensive individuals may be of some benefit in controlling high blood pressure.
SALT: The American Heart Association recommends that consumption of dietary salt be less than 6grams of salt per day in the general population and less than 4 grams for people with hypertension. To achieve a diet containing less than 4 grams of salt, salt is not added to food or when cooking.
NOTE: Some salt substitute contain sodium, the substance in salt increases blood pressure.
EXERCISE AND STRESS REDUCTION: Regular exercise programme may help lower blood pressure over the long term.
Activities such as jogging, bicycle riding, and power walking or swimming for 30 to 45 minutes daily may lower blood pressure by as much as 5 to 15mmHg.
Stress Reduction can also help lower blood pressure. Relaxation methods to reduce stress include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, relaxing with music, Yoga, meditation and biofeedback.
CAN HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE BE PREVENTED?
High blood pressure can sometime be prevented if individual follow a healthy lifestyle and:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular Exercise
- Reduce salt intake
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all
- Reduce stress
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATION OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure increases the risk of developing
- Heart ( cardiac) disease
- Kidney ( renal) disease
- Hardening of the arteries ( arteriosclerosis)
- Eye damage
- Stroke ( brain damage)
People with high blood pressure have an increased stiffness or resistance, in the arteries throughout the tissues of the body. This increased resistance causes the heart muscle to work harder to pump the blood through the arteries. The increased work load can put a strain on the heart, which can lead to heart abnormalities that are usually first seen as an enlarged heart muscle. Heart enlargement may be a forerunner of heart failure, coronary (heart) artery disease, and abnormal heart rate. Proper treatment of the high blood pressure and its complication can reverse some of these heart abnormalities.