Hypertension: Why you should take it seriously

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Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, occurs when the force of your blood against the artery walls experiences higher pressure than usual.

You can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms. However, in the long run, this can lead to health problems, including heart attacks and strokes.

Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure. For example, 120 over 80 is written as 120/80 mmHg.

One or both of these numbers can be too high. (Note: These numbers apply to people who are not taking medicines for blood pressure and are not ill.)

• Normal blood pressure is when your blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mmHg most of the time.

• High blood pressure (hypertension) is when your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above most of the time.

• If your blood pressure numbers are 120/80 or higher, but below 140/90, it is called pre-hypertension.

If you have heart or kidney problems, or had a stroke, your doctor may want your blood pressure to be even lower than that of people without these conditions.

How common is it?

Hypertension is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It commonly affects elderly people. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

What are the symptoms?

Most people with hypertension have no signs or symptoms, although they are in danger.

Few may have some common symptoms – headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds.

However, these signs and symptoms aren’t specific and don’t usually occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, consult your doctor.

When should one see a doctor?

• If you have high blood pressure, you should see your doctor periodically.

• If you’re age 18 with no risk factors, check your blood pressure reading at least every two years.

• If you’re over 18 years old with high risk factors, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year.

If you have any of the signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, consult your doctor.

What causes it?

Essential hypertension: There is no identified cause. In this case, hypertension hereditary, more common in men than women. It also could be profoundly affected by diet and lifestyle.

Secondary hypertension: This is a consequence of certain conditions and medications such as kidney disease, thyroid problems, adrenal gland tumours, birth control pills, cold remedies, cocaine, excessive alcohol consumption.

What increases the risk?

• The older you are, the higher the chance.

• High blood pressure is particularly common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in caucasians.

• Family history.

• Being overweight or obese. An increasing blood flow for supplying oxygen and nutrients to your tissues can lead to higher pressure on your artery walls. It is the same in inactive people who have higher heart rates.

• Inadequate diet. Too much salt, tobacco, alcohol or too little potassium and vitamin D can be the reasons for other diseases, resulting in high blood pressure eventually.

• Other conditions. Stress and certain chronic conditions like kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea also increase your risk of high blood pressure.

Diagnosis and treatment

The information provided here is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is it diagnosed?

A blood pressure cuff is used to diagnose your condition. It has an inflatable rubber platter, and is placed around your arm to measure your blood pressure.

You might be required to take two to three blood pressure readings in both arms each at three or more separate appointments before being diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Blood pressure measurements fall into four general categories:

Normal blood pressure – below 120/80 mm Hg.

Prehypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg. Prehypertension tends to get worse over time.

Stage 1 hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 140 to 159 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 90 to 99 mm Hg.

Stage 2 hypertension. More severe hypertension, stage 2 hypertension is a systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 100 mm Hg or higher.

The common type of high blood pressure among people older than 60 is isolated systolic hypertension. The systolic pressure is high (greater than 140 mm Hg) meanwhile the diastolic pressure is normal (less than 90 mm Hg).

How is it treated?

Depending on your health condition, some medications will be prescribed -Thiazide diuretics, Beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, Calcium channel blockers, Renin inhibitors.

What lifestyle changes can help?

• Consume less salt in your daily meals

• Workout regularly

• Stop smoking

• Reduce alcohol intake

• Keep in good shape

If you have further questions, consult your doctor for the best solution.

This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com and was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.