Hypertension or high blood pressure is a chronic condition in which the pressure of the blood against the arteries is higher than normal.
When normal, blood pressure measurement is an average of the systolic pressure (pressure in the arteries during a heartbeat) and the diastolic pressure (pressure of the blood between each beat). The normal measurement is said to be 120 mm of Hg over 80 mm of Hg.
The more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries are, the higher is the blood pressure. An elevated arterial blood pressure raises the risk of fatal heart diseases and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death in America.
Types, Causes and Symptoms of Hypertension
There are two major types of hypertension:
- Primary hypertension or essential hypertension has no identifiable cause and tends to develop gradually over several years.
- Secondary hypertension, which is usually caused by underlying medical conditions, tends to appear suddenly and results in higher blood pressure than what is encountered in primary hypertension.
There are other less prevalent types of hypertension including malignant hypertension, isolated systolic hypertension and resistant hypertension.
While primary hypertension has no specific causes, some triggers include:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental factors
- Lifestyle choices like smoking, alcohol and unhealthy food habits
- Type 2 diabetes
On the other hand, secondary hypertension can be caused by various medications or health conditions like:
- Kidney problems
- Endocrine diseases
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Long-term alcohol and drug abuse
- Medications like birth control pills, steroids and ibuprofen
Several factors increase the risk of high blood pressure and can include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Family history
- Excessive intake of salt
- Excessive intake of alcohol
- Existing conditions like kidney disease and high cholesterol
Medical practitioners often refer to hypertension as a silent killer because it doesn’t present any immediate symptoms but may be slowly killing you from within. Some people may encounter mild or dull headaches when their blood pressure is too high.
More advanced cases may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Severe headaches
- Confusion and spells of dizziness
- Visual disturbances
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hypertension
The best way to diagnose hypertension is by keeping a constant check on the blood pressure levels. If the doctor sees a high reading, he or she may check for physical characteristics like a faster pulse, swollen veins in the neck, an enlarged thyroid gland, heart murmurs and damaged blood vessels in the retina.
Once hypertension has been diagnosed and its cause is determined, doctors typically start with medications to reduce the blood pressure and relieve its symptoms. Although cruel in its nature, hypertension can be treated with proper medications and healthy lifestyle modifications.
There are many drugs available to tame hypertension and these may be prescribed on their own or in combination with others to tackle the entire problem.
Some of the most commonly prescribed medicines include:
- Diuretics to help the kidneys eliminate sodium and water; these can include thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics and potassium-sparing diuretics
- Beta blockers like atenolol and metoprolol to reduce the workload on the heart
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors like captopril and fosinopril that block the formation of angiotensin, a natural chemical that narrows blood vessels
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) like losartan and eprosartan that block the action of angiotensin
Alternative therapies used for hypertension include:
- Herbal remedies like garlic, hawthorn, cocoa and hibiscus can improve circulation
- Yoga and meditation to relieve stress
- Acupressure in combination with yoga
Though hypertension can be brought under control, if left unchecked, it can lead to complications like:
- Ischemic heart disease
- Heart failure
- Kidney problems
- Memory problems and dementia
- Loss of vision and other problems with the retina
Hypertension, which used to be a disease mostly seen to affect the elderly, now affects people in their 30s and 40s, and the main reason for that is the unhealthy lifestyle many of us lead. Though hypertension may not be completely prevented, its onset can be delayed by following a healthy diet, exercising regularly and living an overall healthy lifestyle.
The content of this Website is for informational purposes only, is general in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and does not constitute professional advice. The information on this Website should not be considered as complete and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise, weight loss, or health care program and/or any of the beauty treatments.
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