Hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. Each time the heartbeats, it pumps blood into the vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) as it is pumped by the heart. The higher the pressure, the harder the heart has to pump.
Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney, and other diseases.
Food, medicine, lifestyle, age, and genetics can cause high blood pressure. The doctor can help you find out what might be causing.
Common factors that can lead to high blood pressure include:
● A diet high in salt, fat, and/or cholesterol.
● Chronic conditions such as kidney and hormone problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
● Family history, especially if parents or other close relatives have high blood pressure.
● Lack of physical activity.
● Older age (the older you are, the more likely you are to have high blood pressure).
● Being overweight or obese.
● Some birth control medicines and other medicines.
● Tobacco use or drinking too much alcohol.
The best way to diagnose high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is to have blood pressure measured.
How a blood pressure test works
● A blood pressure reading is taken with a pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer).
● During the test, the cuff is placed around the upper arm before being manually or electronically inflated.
● Once inflated, the cuff compresses the brachial artery, momentarily stopping blood flow.
● Next, the air in the cuff is slowly released while the person performing the measurement listens with a stethoscope or monitors an electronic readout.
This provides 2 numbers that make up blood pressure. The top number is the systolic reading (the peak blood pressure when the heart is squeezing blood out). The bottom number is diastolic reading (the pressure when the heart is filling with blood
Most people who have high blood pressure do not have symptoms. In some cases, people with high blood pressure may have a pounding feeling in their head or chest, a feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness, or other signs. Without symptoms, people with high blood pressure may go years without knowing they have the condition. That is why High blood pressure is a largely symptomless “silent killer.”
It is very important to have blood pressure checked regularly.
Some people experience headaches, nosebleeds, or shortness of breath with high blood pressure. However, those symptoms can mimic many other things (serious or non-serious). Usually, these symptoms occur once the blood pressure has reached a dangerously high level over a period of time.
Simple lifestyle changes can help reduce high blood pressure, although some people may need to take medicine as well.
The doctor will carry out some blood and urine tests, and ask questions about health to determine the risk of other problems:
● If the blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg (or 135/85mmHg at home), but the risk of other problems is low – you’ll be advised to make some changes to the lifestyle
● If the blood pressure is consistently above 140/90mmHg (or 135/85mmHg at home) and risk of other problems is high – you’ll be offered medicine to lower the blood pressure, in addition to lifestyle changes
● If the blood pressure is consistently above 160/100mmHg – you’ll be offered medicine to lower the blood pressure, in addition to lifestyle changes you need to take medicine as well.
A healthy lifestyle is the first line of defense against high blood pressure. Habits that help control blood pressure include:
● eating a healthy diet
● staying physically active
● maintaining a healthy weight
● avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
● quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
● eating less salt
● limiting caffeine
● monitoring blood pressure at home
Types of Hypertension
There are 2 types of high blood pressure.
Primary hypertension. This is also called essential hypertension. It is called this when there is no known cause for high blood pressure. This is the most common type of hypertension. This type of blood pressure usually takes many years to develop. It probably is a result of lifestyle, environment, and how the body changes as you age.
Secondary hypertension. This is when a health problem or medicine is causing high blood pressure. Things that can cause secondary hypertension include:
● Kidney problems.
● Sleep apnea.
● Thyroid or adrenal gland problems.
● Some medicines.