About one-third of adults in the UK have hypertension. Hypertension greatly increases the risk of many heart conditions, like heart attack and stroke, which may ultimately lead to death. But what makes it even worse is that many of the people who have hypertension don’t even know they have it. This explains why it has been dubbed the ‘silent killer.’
The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better the chances of overcoming it. Therefore, it becomes important to have the necessary information about hypertension, like its causes, health effects, treatment options, and how to live with it. This article will provide all of that.
Hypertension, simply put, is high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the pressure in the arteries, which are the blood vessels responsible for conveying blood from the heart to other parts of the body except for the lungs.
A person is only said to have high blood pressure when the blood pressure is consistently high. There are times during the day that the blood pressure may go above the normal limits. This is not considered as hypertension. It becomes hypertension when the blood pressure is consistently above the normal limits.
Blood pressure is measured in mmHg. There are two readings involved, which are the diastolic pressure and systolic pressure. The systolic pressure shows the force at which the heart pumps blood and is the larger number. The diastolic pressure, on the other hand, is the resistance to flow in the arteries.
Ideal systolic pressure is between 90 and 120mmHg, while ideal diastolic pressure is between 60 and 80mmHg. When the blood pressure is consistently higher than 140/90mmHg, the person is said to be hypertensive.
Causes of hypertension
There isn’t a definite answer to the question, what causes hypertension? However, some factors may increase the risk of having hypertension. They are:
- Diet. Eating too many salty foods and little fruits and vegetables can increase one’s risk for hypertension.
- Physical inactivity
- Smoking and drinking
- Being overweight
- Having a family member with hypertension. The chances increase if one or both of a person’s parents have a history of hypertension.
- Race. People of black African or Caribbean descent have a much higher chance of having hypertension.
- Insufficient sleep
There are times where doctors can identify the cause of hypertension, in what is called secondary hypertension. Some of the causes of secondary hypertension are hormonal changes, diabetes, renal diseases, and some medications’ side effects. In such instances, treatment of the underlying condition can cause blood pressure to reduce.
Health effects of hypertension
There are many health conditions associated with hypertension. High blood pressure causes the heart and blood vessels’ walls to do more work, which weakens them with time. An extra strain is also put on many important organs in the body. Some of the health conditions that may accompany hypertension are:
- Renal disease
- Cardiovascular conditions, like stroke, heart attack, heart failure
These conditions are potentially fatal, and immediate medical assistance is to be sought in any of these cases.
Treatment of hypertension
Hypertension is a condition that will worsen if left unattended to; therefore, the first step in the treatment of this condition is identifying it. It is impossible to know if a person has high blood pressure without testing, as there are typically no noticeable symptoms for this condition; hence, the name the ‘silent killer.’ You can see your doctor to get tested or get a personal sphygmomanometer.
After identifying that the person has high blood pressure, there are two main courses of action. The first is the use of medications to try to treat the condition. There are several high blood pressure medications, with different action mechanisms, but all working towards the same goal – reducing blood pressure. Because of the difference in the way they work, you should never self-medicate, as the drug you use may have some very undesirable side effects in the body.
Some of the medications used to treat hypertension are:
- Calcium channel blockers, like amlodipine and nifedipine
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, like ramipril and lisinopril
- Angiotensin-2 receptor blockers, like valsartan and losartan
- Diuretics, like amiloride, indapamide
- Beta-blockers, like atenolol
The other course of action is to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Some of the changes that can help in the treatment and prevention of hypertension are:
- Lower salt intake
- No smoking
- Physical activity
- Weight shedding for overweight individuals
- Reduced intake of alcohol and caffeinated beverages
Living with hypertension
If you have hypertension, you need to be very watchful of your lifestyle, including what you eat, drink, and your physical activity. You may be making reasonable progress, and then a mistake can send spike your blood pressure again. Make sure you adhere to your medications.
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