Hypertension (HTN) or high blood pressure, also known as arterial hypertension, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries remains elevated. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your artery, the higher is your blood pressure. Heart, in the HTN patient, has to work a little harder than the normal heart to pump blood and circulate it in the body. High blood pressure is a common condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.
Blood pressure is covered by two measurements, systolic and diastolic, which depends on whether the heart muscle is contracting or relaxed between beats and equate to a maximum and minimum pressure, respectively. While the heart is relaxed it is referred as systole, whereas if the heart is relaxed between the beats, it is referred to as diastole. Normal blood pressure at rest is within the range of 100-140mmHg systolic (top reading) and 60-90mmHg diastolic (bottom reading). Blood pressure is said to be high if it is persistently at or above 140/90 mmHg.
Hypertension is classified into two categories:
• Primary (essential) hypertension
• Secondary hypertension
About 90–95% of cases are categorized as “primary hypertension” which means high blood pressure with no obvious underlying medical cause. The remaining 5–10% of cases fall in secondary hypertension, caused by other conditions that affect the kidneys, arteries, heart or endocrine system.
High blood pressure can remain subsided for many years without any symptoms. HTN only comes in picture when it turns out of control and increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart stroke. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it. You can read the symptoms below.
- Headaches, particularly at the back of the head and in the morning. Lightheadedness, vertigo, altered vision or fainting episodes. These symptoms however are more likely to be related to anxiety than the high blood pressure itself
- On physical examination, hypertension may be suspected on the basis of the presence of hypertensive retinopathy detected with the help of Ophthalmoscopy, the examination of the optic fundus found in the back of the eye.
- Initially, you may detect dull headaches, dizzy spells, or a few more nosebleeds than normal, these signs and symptoms typically don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.
From the age of 18, get your BP checked once in two years. If diagnosed with HTN you must frequently check your BP. You can also ask a doctor for any symptoms related questions and other queries.
There are various risk factors related to the HTN:
- Age: With increasing age the risk of HTN increases. Through early middle age, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after menopause.
- Hereditary: High blood pressure tends to run in families and the genes.
- Obesity: More you are overweight, more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
- Sedentary Life: People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction — and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activities also makes you obese.
- Tobacco: Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. Passive smoking or second-hand smoke (SHS) can also increase your blood pressure.
- Potassium in the diet: Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.
- Vitamin D in the diet: It’s uncertain if having too little vitamin D in your diet can lead to high blood pressure. Vitamin D may affect an enzyme produced by your kidneys that affects your blood pressure.
- Salt in the diet: Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
- Excessive Alcohol: Over the time, heavy drinking can damage your heart.
- Stress: High levels of stress can lead to a temporary, but drastic increase in blood pressure. If you tend to calm yourself by eating more, smoking or drinking alcohol, you may only increase problems with high blood pressure.
- Some chronic conditions: Certain chronic conditions may also increase your risk of high blood pressure, including high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea.
Certain alterations of habits in your routine life can help you prevent high blood pressure. Lifestyle changes can help you control and prevent high blood pressure — even if you’re taking blood pressure medication. Here’s what you can do:
- Decrease Sodium: A lower sodium level — 1,500 milligrams (mg) a day — is appropriate for people 51 years of age or older, and individuals of any age who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Otherwise, healthy people can aim for 2,300 mg a day or less. While you can reduce the amount of salt you eat by putting down the saltshaker, you should also pay attention to the amount of salt that’s in the processed foods you eat, such as canned soups or frozen dinners.
- Eat Healthy: Try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which emphasizes on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods. Get plenty of potassium, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Eat less saturated fat and total fat.
- Maintain Healthy Body Weight. If you’re overweight, losing even 3 kilograms can lower your blood pressure.
- Increase physical activity. Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure and keep your weight under control. Strive for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
- Limit alcohol. Even if you’re healthy, alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation — up to one drink a day for women and everyone older than age 65, and two drinks a day for men.
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit.
- Manage stress. Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice healthy coping techniques, such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing. Getting plenty of sleep can help, too.
- Monitor your blood pressure at home. Home blood pressure monitoring can help you keep closer tabs on your blood pressure, show if medication is working, and even alert you and your doctor to potential complications, you can also check your health symptoms online. If your blood pressure is under control, you may be able to make fewer visits to your doctor if you monitor your blood pressure at home.