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High blood pressure or hypertension is known as the 'silent killer' as it affects the body even before the patient is aware about the condition. Hypertension is a medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently raised. Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels. In case the pressure exerted is too high then, the heart has to work harder to pump that leads to organ damage and several conditions like heart failure, heart attack, stroke, renal failure, etc. Blood pressure of 120/80 is considered to be normal while blood pressure above 140/90 is considered high.
W. H. O. health report, 1998 stated that hypertension ranked fourth in the world. Generally, it is estimated that one out of six persons suffers from hypertension. It is recorded that 6% of teenagers are hypertensive.
Causes of Hypertension
The exact cause of hypertension is generally unknown but, there are numerous factors which are linked with hypertension. Some of these risk factors are as follows:-
- Abnormality of the arteries due to stiffness or lack of elasticity of the arteries
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Increased intake of high levels of salt
- Inadequate intake of calcium, potassium, and magnesium
- Certain medicines such as birth control pills, asthma medications, etc
- Increased intake of alcohol
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Medicinal conditions such as chronic kidney disease, thyroid problems
Classification of Hypertension
Hypertension is classified as -
- Primary Hypertension or Essential Hypertension - In this condition, there is high blood pressure without any underlying medical cause.
- Secondary Hypertension – This condition is caused by other conditions which affect the heart, kidneys, arteries or endocrine system.
Symptoms and signs of Hypertension
Extremely high blood pressure may give rise to the following signs and symptoms –
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Pain in the arms, shoulder region, heart and back
- Difficulty in breathing
- Fatigue and confusion
- Nose bleeding
- Frequent urination
Complications of Hypertension
- Heart failure
- Ischemic heart disease
- Damage to kidney
- Errors in metabolism
- Neurological complications leading to loss of memory, confusion and lack of clarity
- Osteoporosis – Few people with hypertension lose calcium through urine leading to osteoporosis, or reduction in bone density.
- Preeclampsia/Eclampsia during pregnancy.
- Pulmonary Edema occurs when the fluid in the lungs interferes with the pumping ability of the heart.
- Sexual Dysfunction.
Diagnosis of Hypertension
Hypertension may be diagnosed by a physician by measuring the blood pressure with a BP measuring instrument known as sphygmomanometer. The blood pressure is measured and compared with the normal values. Blood pressure of 120/80 is considered to be normal while blood pressure consistently more than 140/90 for longer time is considered to be high. The upper number in the blood pressure reading indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (systolic pressure). The second number indicates the pressure in the arteries between the beats (diastolic pressure). The health care provider further records the medical history and the family history of person suffering with hypertension.
Depending on the health condition of the patient, few more investigations may be needed to be carried out -
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) - Helps to assess the rate and rhythm of the heart.
- Echocardiogram is an ultrasound examination of the heart, used to estimate the anatomy and the function of the heart.
- Doppler ultrasound is used to examine the flow of the blood through arteries at pulse points in arms, legs, hands, and feet.
Treatment of Hypertension
Hypertension can be treated and controlled by the following measures -
- Lifestyle modifications such as the diet modifications, physical exercise and weight loss can help in reducing blood pressure. Psychological stress is to be reduced by relaxation or meditation.
- Medications – There are several drugs which are combined to control blood pressure. Some of the commonly used drugs are ACE inhibitors, Beta blockers, Alpha blockers, Calcium channel blockers, diuretics, angiotensin II receptor antagonists, etc. A patient may require to consume the hypertensive medications life long.
Prevention of Hypertension
To prevent hypertension, the below mentioned steps should be followed –
- Reduce salt intake
- Lower intake of alcohol intake
- Consume low fat diet
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress.
- Perform routine health examinations and blood pressure screening
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