The mention of Hypertension often does not evoke much of a reaction. The condition however leads to serious ailments and is one of the major causes of coronary artery disease, stroke and kidney disease.
Need for Awareness
Hereâ€™s an alarming fact; over 50 million people in the U.S or one in three American adult suffers from hypertension. What makes it riskier is that most of them are not even aware of it. Hypertension is often referred to as the silent killer as it does not give any outward signs of its presence until itâ€™s too late.
Hypertension is one of the major causes of shortened life spans especially in urban areas. Over 200,000 people in the US die annually from an illness related to high blood pressure. Patients with hypertension are at high risk to have a stroke, or suffer a heart attack or develop congestive heart failure which claim more lives than cancer.
Timely Diagnosis Is Vital:
Whatâ€™s more distressing is that hypertension is easy to diagnose by simply having your blood pressure checked regularly. This would ensure that you receive timely treatment in the form of medications and are able to make lifestyle changes as required. Early detection is crucial as it significantly lowers chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is a chronic health condition in which the arterial blood pressure, the blood flowing from the heart to the vital organs, gets elevated due to various reasons. For example a diet rich in saturated and trans fats causes the blood to thicken increasing the heartâ€™s workload in pumping blood to all parts of the body.
Over a period of time, the resulting stress weakens the heart muscle and causes the artery walls to harden with buildup of plaque within. The consequences of chronic hypertension can be gradual involving damage of vital organs like kidneys as well as sudden and often fatal in the form of heart failure and brain ischemia or brain hemorrhage.
How Is Hypertension Measured?
Blood pressure is measured in terms of an upper limit, known as systolic and a lower limit known as diastolic based on heartbeats. A normal blood pressure reading is usually around 120 and 70. Anything over 140 and 90 is an indication of hypertension. Anything in between is considered as a pre-hypertensive stage and would require increased monitoring.
Types of Hypertension
Hypertension is of two types; primary or â€œEssential hypertensionâ€ and secondary or â€œOrganic hypertension.â€
[box type=”note”]More than 90 percent of hypertension cases fall under primary or essential hypertension which does not have any definitive causes. Certain lifestyle habits however are commonly observed in essential hypertension patients.[/box]
Organic or secondary hypertension has a more visible cause in the form of hormonal or vascular disease. High blood pressure also occurs to a lesser extent in women usually observed in times of pregnancy or attributed to birth-control pills usage. Some other causes include use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines and appetite suppressants.
Lifestyle characteristics that put you at risk for hypertension include:
- lack of activity and exercise
- excessive salt in the diet
- alcohol consumption
- high stress daily routine
What Are the Symptoms of Hypertension?
There arenâ€™t many symptoms of hypertension unless your blood pressure is extremely high. In these cases one could experience nose bleeds, heart palpitation, headache and dizziness and would need urgent medical attention.
Checking oneâ€™s blood pressure at least twice a year remains the best precaution against hypertension; people over 40 especially with a family history of hypertension and diabetes need to be more proactive in this regard.
What to Watch Out for:
Hypertension and diet are closely related to each other. Consumption of foods high in cholesterol and processed food products with a high percentage of preservatives is best avoided.
Salt causes the water content in the blood to increase. This corresponds to an increase in blood volume resulting in high blood pressure. One teaspoon of salt in all forms is the recommended daily amount for people who are moderately active.
Obesity and Lack of Activity
Obesity associated with weight gain around the waist is another major cause of high blood pressure. Being overweight is often related to a sedentary lifestyle which is another risk factor in itself.
Last but not the least a high stress lifestyle causes your blood pressure to shoot up due to constriction of blood vessels and secretion of stress hormones like cortisol. Stress management in fact is a core aspect of hypertension treatment.
Measures to Help Manage Stress:
- proper diet, sufficient rest and moderate activity
- optimistic attitude towards life and healthy self-esteem
- relaxation in the form of pursuing hobbies
- spending time with family and friends
- realistic expectations from oneself
- reducing demands on personal time
How to Prevent Hypertension:
6 Ways to Prevent Hypertension
- Watch your weight. Your body weight should not exceed 25 percent above the recommended standard. So for a person six feet tall if the ideal body weight is in the range of 160-170 lbs it should not exceed 200 lbs.
- Drink moderately not exceeding one or two standard sized alcoholic drinks in a day.
- Reduce your salt intake in the form of processed foods
- Eat a diet that is well-balanced in all nutrients like whole grains, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, moderate servings of dairy and poultry products and reducing consumption of red meat.
- Stop smoking as nicotine constricts blood vessels to a large extent
- Exercise at least 30-45 minutes daily involving more of cardiovascular workouts like aerobics
While there are a variety of drugs which are effective in treating high blood pressure most come with side effects. Also each person reacts uniquely to the different medicines and itâ€™s important to let your doctor know how the drug is affecting you other than lowering the blood pressure.
Another point to be noted is that once you have started taking the medicines one should not stop abruptly or miss a dose which could cause your blood pressure to rise quite high.
[box type=”important”]Prevention is always better than care more so in the case of hypertension. Monitor your blood pressure regularly and combat the toll it takes on adults in the U.S and worldwide.[/box]