Blood in our body flows through two types of blood vessels. The ones that carries the pure, oxygenated blood from the heart to various parts of the body are called “arteries” and the other type which carries the deoxygenated blood back from the different parts of the body to the heart are called the “veins”.
Blood pressure is simply defined as the pressure or force exerted by the flowing blood against the walls of the vessels in which they are carried.
High Blood Pressure or Hypertension is the condition where the pressure exerted by the blood on the blood vessel wall, mainly the arteries is higher than the normal. The sustained rise in blood pressure can lead to many health problems like heart diseases, stroke, kidney diseases etc. Hypertension is fast becoming one of the major causes of Heart Diseases around the world. The risk of developing other cardiovascular diseases increases greatly in the presence of Hypertension. This condition usually is asymptomatic in the initial years, but it can be easily detected and treated very effectively. The morbidity and mortality associated with hypertension rises if it is left untreated and uncontrolled. In this article, we shall learn the causes, the risk factors, the complications and ways to prevent and treat hypertension.
Most of the persons with high blood pressure remain asymptomatic. Headache, Giddiness, Nausea, Nose bleeds, Shortness of breath are some of the symptoms which the patients with high blood pressure present at the Out Patient Department. But, these symptoms are not specific to hypertension. It is recommended to check your blood pressure frequently and this can be done on your routine visit to the doctor or at a medical camp or laboratory. The symptoms of the various complications of hypertension can also be the first symptom with which the patient presents.
There are two types of high blood pressure.
Primary (essential) hypertension
For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure is called primary (essential) hypertension and it tends to develop gradually over many years.
Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure, called secondary hypertension, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:
• Kidney problems
• Adrenal gland tumors
• Thyroid problems
• Certain defects in blood vessels you’re born with (congenital)
• Certain medications, such as birth control pills, steroid containing medications
Age : Risk of hypertension increases as you age.
Race : Higher chances of hypertension are seen in black community.
Family History : You are at increased risk of hypertension if one of your family member is suffering from the condition.
Obesity : The more your body weight , more is the blood volume. With rise in the blood volume, the blood pressure also rises. Read and learn the proper ways to eat healthy
Increased Salt intake : You should read my previous article on the importance of salt restriction on decreasing blood pressure to understand more on this regard.
Sedentary Life Style. The word “sedentary” means “sitting” and there won’t be any argument when someone says that most of the young generation is currently living the sedentary life without any kind of physical exercises. I strongly recommend you to read my article on sedentary life style to learn the remedies.
Fatty Food : There have been many evidences which suggest that elevated saturated fat in diet and elevated blood cholesterol levels are strong risk factors for developing hypertension.
Alcoholism : It can lead to temporary high blood pressure which can be made normal on abstinence.
Stress : Studies have shown that increased mental and physical stress leads to overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system which can result in raised blood pressure levels.
Interesting Reading : Stress Can Be Good
Increased blood pressure in our body can result in damage to the blood vessels in many forms.This can result in many health problems which can be listed as follows :
Heart Attack : – Thickening and hardening of arteries supplying blood to the heart can indirectly lead to a condition known as “atherosclerosis” and finally end up as heart attack.
Stroke :- Rupture of arteries in the brain dues to high blood pressure leads to stroke.
Heart Failure :- High blood pressure makes the arterial walls thickened and this increases the resistance to the blood flow. The heart has to work extra hard to pump the same volume of blood in this situation which can eventually thicken the heart muscles and lead to heart failure.
Kidney Diseases :- Impaired blood flow to the kidneys can result in damages to the kidney and may even end up as kidney failure.
Vision Impairment :- This can occur when high blood pressure affects the small retinal blood vessels.
Aneurysms : Weakening and rupture of large blood vessels can rarely occur in hypertensive patients and this can be fatal.
High blood pressure can easily be detected using the “sphygmomanometer” . Your doctor will place an inflatable cuff around your arm and record two values. The first value is called the Systolic blood pressure and the second is called as the Diastolic blood pressure. There are four stages of hypertension as shown in the table above. Two or three visits to the doctor might be required to diagnose high blood pressure.
Prevention and Treatment
It is evident that hypertension is a preventable disease and this can be done by changing the life style. Adopting a healthy life style which includes a healthy diet, physical exercise, quitting smoking and alcohol, restricting dietary salt intake and maintaining a normal body weight can all help in maintaining a normal blood pressure. But, most of the time this is not sufficient and medications may be required to lower the blood pressure and maintain it at a normal range.
According to your age, and other health related stats, your doctor will prescribe an anti-hypertensive drug or a combination of these drugs. The major groups of anti-hypertensive drugs include Diuretics, Beta Blockers, Calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, Angiotensin Receptor Blockers.
In cases of secondary hypertension, the underlying cause has to treated first before controlling the hypertension.