Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a common health condition that affects 1.28 billion people between the ages of 30 and 79 worldwide. While normal blood pressure should be below 120/80 mm Hg, a person with high blood pressure will have a reading of more than 130/80 mm Hg. Hypertension is often called the "silent killer" because it can go undetected for years, causing damage to the heart, blood vessels, and other organs. In fact, around 46% of adults suffering from the condition are often unaware. And only 42% of the cases are detected and treated. If untreated, hypertension can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. The good news is that hypertension is manageable and reversible with a few lifestyle changes.
Signs of Hypertension
A majority of people with the condition usually don’t experience any symptoms. However, extreme levels of hypertension (180/120 or higher) can cause the following:
- Chest pains
- Vision problems
- Intense headaches
- Respiratory distress
- Nose bleeding
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Buzzing sensation in the ear
If you or anyone you know is experiencing such symptoms, it’s best to seek urgent medical attention. The best approach to determining whether or not your blood pressure is too high is to get it checked. It's a quick and painless process that can be done individually using automated devices. However, you should visit a healthcare professional to perform a thorough evaluation of your health. Failing to do so can predispose you to develop complications such as renal disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Causes of Hypertension
Although the specific causes of high blood pressure are unknown, several factors can predispose one to the condition, including:
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive salt intake
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Being overweight
- Hereditary history
- Sleep Apnea
- Chronic kidney disease
- Thyroid and adrenal disorders
The root cause of high blood pressure is unknown in as many as 95% of Americans with the condition. In such cases, the term “essential hypertension” is used to describe this condition. Although the causes of essential hypertension are not fully understood, there are several risk factors that have been identified. Men are more prone to develop high blood pressure than women, and it runs in families. Race and age also come into play.
Secondary hypertension is used to describe cases of hypertension for which an underlying cause may be recognized, and on top of the list is kidney disease. Other factors include hyperactive adrenal glands, pregnancy, and contraceptive pills.
Prevention and Treatment of Hypertension
Leading a healthy lifestyle is a sure way of keeping your blood pressure within normal range. You can do so by following these tips:
- Eating Healthy - Fresh fruits and vegetables should make up a large portion of your diet. Consult your healthcare practitioners about adopting a diet high in potassium, fiber, and protein while limiting your intake of salt (sodium) and saturated fat. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, many individuals may reduce their risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight - Doctors often use body mass index (BMI) to confirm whether a patient has a healthy weight. You can also do the same by entering your weight and height into an online BMI calculator. The healthy range is between 18.5 to 24.9. If you fall outside this range, talk to a medical professional about adopting strategies such as exercise and diet that will keep you within this range.
- Get Some Shut-Eye - Depending on your age, you should get at least 7–9 hours of sleep each night. This will help you maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels.
- Limit Your Alcohol Intake and Quit Smoking - Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. If you don’t already, don’t start, but if you do smoke, you should quit. Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase your blood pressure. It's recommended that men only drink a maximum of two alcoholic drinks in a day, while women should only consume one.