Hypertension / High Blood Pressure
Blood is carried to all parts of the body by the arteries. Blood pressure is defined as the force of the blood against the artery walls as the heart pumps the blood around the body. Each time the heart beats it pumps out blood into the arteries. Systolic pressure refers to blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood and diastolic pressure refers to blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The instrument that records the blood pressure is called sphygmomanometer. The normal recommended blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.
If the blood pressure falls between the range of 120/80 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg it is termed as ‘pre-hypertension’.
High blood pressure can be dangerous as it makes the heart work harder. Hypertension is a ‘silent killer disease’ and it often has no signs and symptoms. If left untreated it can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke as well as kidney failure and eye damage. Some people may not realize they have high blood pressure until they have problems with their blood, heart or kidneys.
Almost one in every three people suffers from this condition and this may be related to our modern lifestyle and dietary changes. Consumption of salt, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and stress are some of the factors that can lead to increase in the blood pressure.
Classification of hypertension
Primary (essential) hypertension - High blood pressure with no obvious underlying medical cause.
Secondary hypertension - High blood pressure caused by other conditions that affect the kidneys, arteries, heart or endocrine system.
Headaches, dizziness or nosebleeds are the common warning signs of high blood pressure.
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is an effective first step in both preventing and controlling high blood pressure. Diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers can be used for treating hypertension.
High blood pressure is a chronic condition and usually lasts a lifetime once it is developed.
What are the Causes of High Blood Pressure?
The causes of high blood pressure may vary according to individuals.
In 90 - 95% cases of high blood pressure, there is no specific underlying medical condition. Many patients have high blood pressure for years and do not know it. When the cause is unknown it is called essential hypertension or primary hypertension.
Certain associations have been noticed with people having essential hypertension. They include
A high intake of salt
Hereditary (genetic) susceptibility (30%)
Kidney failure (renal insufficiency)
Lack of exercise
The remaining 5-10 % cases of hypertension are due to certain factors that can be corrected. This is known as secondary hypertension. The causes include –
Narrowing of certain arteries
Structural abnormality of the aorta existing from birth
Adrenal gland diseases
Pre-eclampsia, a significant increase in blood pressure during the last 3 months of pregnancy.
Use of illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.
Medications like birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, pain relievers.
Metabolic Syndrome is also a cause of developing hypertension.
The major risk factors for developing hypertension are -
Age - Blood pressure increases as age increases.
Race - High blood pressure is more common in blacks than in whites.
Sex - In young adulthood and early middle age, men have high blood pressure more often than women.
Genetics - High blood pressure tends to run in families.