Hypertension (HTN) or high blood pressure, sometimes called arterial hypertension, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. Blood pressure is summarised by two measurements, systolic and diastolic, which depend on whether the heart muscle is contracting (systole) or relaxed between beats (diastole). This equals the maximum and minimum pressure, respectively. Normal blood pressure is less than 120mmHg by systolic (top reading) High blood pressure is said to be present if it is often at or above 120 mmHg.
Hypertension is classified as either primary (essential) hypertension or 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 (secondary hypertension) are caused by other medical conditions These secondary causes include kidney disease, thyroid disease, disease of the adrenal gland, alcohol abuse, etc.
Hypertension puts strain on the heart, leading to hypertensive heart disease and coronary artery disease if not treated. Hypertension is also a major risk factor for stroke, aneurysms of the arteries (e.g. aortic aneurysm), peripheral arterial disease and is a cause of chronic kidney disease. A moderately high arterial blood pressure is associated with a shortened life expectancy while mild elevation is not. Dietary and lifestyle changes can improve blood pressure control and decrease the risk of health complications, although drug treatment is still often necessary in people for whom lifestyle changes are not enough or not effective.
Risk Factors for Hypertension
The risk Factors for hypertension can be classified into modifiable and non-modifiable:
Non-modifiable risk factors include:
- Genetic Factor/Family history
Modifiable risk factors include;
- High sodium intake
- Low potassium intake
- Alcohol consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle/reduced physical activity
Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension is usually diagnosed through screening or when seeking healthcare for an unrelated problem or as part of routine appointment with the doctorw. People with hypertension usually have no symptoms or signs. Though with severely elevated blood pressure, , there can be dull headache, dizzy spells or bleeding from the nose.
On physical examination, hypertension may be suspected on the basis of the presence of hypertensive retinopathy (the damage to the retina and retinal circulation due to high blood pressure/hypertension, detected by examination of the optic fundus found in the back of the eye using ophthalmoscopy (a test that allows a health professional to see inside the fundus of the eye and other structures using an ophthalmoscope or funduscope). Classically, the severity of the hypertensive retinopathy changes is graded from grade I–IV, although the milder types may be difficult to distinguish from each other. Ophthalmoscopy findings may also give some indication as to how long a person has been hypertensive.
Facts About Hypertension
- Hypertension is a slow killer if not detected early or managed adequately
- Early detection of the disease helps to save life.
- A larger percentage of people with high blood pressure do not know they have it.
- Cases of Adults in their 20s and 30s with hypertension are now on the increase in the country.
- People die of the disease as a result of ignorance, poor socio-cultural beliefs and poor health seeking behavior.
- High Blood Pressure can be effectively managed for life
Tips For Preventing Hypertension
You can prevent high blood pressure by:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can make you two to six times more likely to develop high blood pressure than if you are at your desirable weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference in helping to prevent and treat high blood pressure.
- Get regular exercise: People who are physically active have a lower (between 20% and 50%) risk of getting high blood pressure than people who are not active. If you do some physically activities daily, you are helping to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. It does not have to be going to the gym or running a marathon. Simple exercises like doing laundries washing dishes can help a great deal. How are high blood pressure and exercise connected? Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.
- Reduce salt intake: Eating less salt helps to prevent blood pressure from increasing. Often, when people with high blood pressure cut back on salt, their blood pressure falls. Cutting back on salt also prevents blood pressure from rising. Salt (sodium) is essential to our bodies. Normally the kidneys control the level of salt. If there is too much salt, the kidneys pass it into urine. But when our salt intake levels are very high, the kidneys cannot keep up and the salt ends up in our bloodstream. Salt attracts water. When there is too much salt in the blood, the salt draws more water into the blood. More water increases the volume of blood which raises blood pressure.
- Moderation In Alcohol Intake: Blood pressure increases with increased alcohol intake. To help prevent high blood pressure, limit how much alcohol you drink. If you can afford it, avoid it completely.
- Reduce stress: Stress can make blood pressure go up, and over time may contribute to the cause of high blood pressure. There are many steps you can take to reduce your stress.
- Talk About It - Share your feelings and concerns with a partner, family member, friend, work colleague, clergy or mental health professional. When you feel stressed, talking can provide a release and a fresh perspective.
- Take A Hobby - You may plant flowers or make some wood work. Ensure it is a task find pleasure doing and not some self-imposed punishment. If it is an activity you enjoy doing, it can go a long way in toning down stress.
- Breathing exercises can help relieve stress. Inhale slowly through your nose then exhale slowly out your mouth. Pause, and then repeat this deep breathing for up to 15 breaths. Do this exercise several times each day.
- Learn to say No - Do your best but, if possible, learn to say no to certain tasks. Do not over-promise. It increases your level of activity and thereby increases stress factor. Reduce your level of commitment to social life. Even doing things you enjoy can cause stress.
- Learn how to switch off your mobile phones when necessary - Do not feel the need to be connected at all times. Switch off your mobile phone and take some minutes of your time each day to refresh your mental outlook. This helps to slow down your body’s stress response.
- Eat Healthy - A healthy diet can help reduce stress. Eat a measure of fruit and vegetable servings each day. A banana, for instance, is loaded with vitamin B6 to help the body create mood-boosting serotonin.
- Take some time out to relax - Take some light exercises several times a day to let go of tension and relieve stress. Drop your head to one side and gently roll it; repeat three to five times, then reverse directions. Repeat this exercise five times.
- Take A Walk - Take at least 20 minutes a day to make a brisk walk. It helps to improve your mental health. Find an activity you enjoy, and ask a friend or family member to join you.
- Spend some time to appreciate beautiful scenery - Five minutes each day spent watching peaceful and beautiful scenes such as a warm beach or a quiet spot helps to reduce stress in the body. Concentrate on what you see, hear, smell, feel and taste and let go of the stress!
Other nutrients may also help prevent high blood pressure. Here's a roundup of the research:
- Potassium. Eating foods rich in potassium will help protect some people from developing high blood pressure. You probably can get enough potassium from your diet, so a supplement isn't necessary (and could be dangerous without a doctor's oversight). Many fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and fish are good sources of potassium.
- Calcium. Populations with low calcium intakes have high rates of high blood pressure. However, it has not been proven that taking calcium tablets will prevent high blood pressure. But it is important to be sure to get at least the recommended amount of calcium -- 1,000 milligrams per day for adults 19 to 50 years old and 1,200 mg for those over 50 (pregnant and breastfeeding women also need more) -- from the foods you eat. Dairy foods like low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of calcium. Low-fat and nonfat dairy products have even more calcium than the high-fat types.
- Magnesium. A diet low in magnesium may make your blood pressure rise. But doctors don't recommend taking extra magnesium to help prevent high blood pressure -- the amount you get in a healthy diet is enough. Magnesium is found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dry peas and beans.
- Fish oils. A type of fat called "omega-3 fatty acids" is found in fatty fish like mackerel and salmon. Large amounts of fish oils may help reduce high blood pressure, but their role in prevention is unclear. Taking fish oil pills is not recommended, because high doses can cause unpleasant side effects. Most fish, if not fried or made with added fat, is low in saturated fat and calories and can be eaten often.
- Garlic. There has been some evidence to suggest garlic's effect in lowering blood pressure, in addition to improving cholesterol and reducing some cancers. Further research is being conducted to fully assess garlic's potential health benefits.