Hypertension, also referred to as High blood pressure, is a common health condition in which the long-term blood force against the artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause problems to the health, such as heart disease.
It occurs when blood pressure increases to an unhealthy level. The amount of resistance to blood flow in the artery while the heart is pumping and how much blood is passing through your blood vessels is what your blood pressure measurement takes into account. The narrower your arteries and the more blood your heart pumps, the higher your blood pressure.
Narrow arteries increase resistance. The narrower the arteries are the higher the resistance and the higher the blood pressure will be.
Hypertension is quite common, and it typically develops to become severe over the course of several years and can be in the human body without any symptoms. But even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues and can be detected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels and organs, especially the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys. And hypertension increases your risk of developing serious health problems like stroke and heart attack.
Eventually, hypertension affects nearly everyone. Regular blood pressure checkup/readings can help you and your doctor notice any changes therefore, early detection is important. If your blood pressure is elevated, the doctor will have you check your blood pressure over a specific period of time (in some cases, a few weeks) to see if the blood pressure stays elevated or if it falls back to normal levels. And once it is known that you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it. Changing to a healthier lifestyle and taking only prescribed medications are the best options for the treatment of hypertension.
SYMPTOMS OF HYPERTENSION
Hypertension is typically a hushed condition. For the hypertensive person’s condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become obvious, it may take years or even decades. In many people with hypertension, no signs and symptoms is noticed even if their blood pressure reading reaches dangerously high levels.
When you have extremely high hypertension, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Serious headaches
- Breathing difficulty
- dizziness of confusion
- Ears, neck or chest pain
- Changes in vision
- blood in the urine
- Irregular heartbeat
If a person notices any of the above-listed symptoms, it is advised that they seek medical attention immediately. However, waiting for these symptoms to occur before checking your blood pressure could be fatal because they don’t occur in everyone with hypertension.
To know if you have hypertension, the best thing to do is to often check your blood pressure readings. At every appointment, most hospitals physicians take your blood pressure reading.
If you only visit the hospital yearly for checkups, you will have to discuss with your doctor about your risk of developing hypertension and how to watch it. Take for example, your doctor may recommend that you have your blood pressure checked twice a year if you have any history of heart disease or have risk factors for developing hypertension. This will keep you and your doctor on an easy and safe side.
Types And Causes Of High Blood Pressure
There are two known types of high blood pressure and each type has its own cause.
Primary or essential hypertension
This type of high blood pressure, known as essential or primary hypertension develops over time with no identifiable cause. This type of high blood pressure occurs in many people.
It’s still unclear the cause of the gradual increase in blood pressure, but a number of factors may play a role. These factors include:
- Gene: Some people are predisposed genetically to hypertension which may be from genetic abnormalities inherited from parents or gene mutations.
- Physical changes: when there is a change in your body, probably you will be experiencing issues throughout your body in which hypertension may be one of those issues. An example is when there is changes in the kidney functional system due to aging it may upset the body’s natural balance of fluid and salts. These changes might cause an increase in the body’s blood pressure.
- Environment: Weight problems can be a result of lifestyle choices because being obese or overweight can increase your risk of developing hypertension. With time, unhealthy lifestyle choices like lack of healthy diet and physical activity can take their toll on your body.
Secondary hypertension tends to appear suddenly and become more severe than does primary hypertension. This type of high blood pressure is said to be caused by an underlying condition. Several conditions and medications that can lead to secondary hypertension include:
- Thyroid problems
- Use of illegal drugs like amphetamine and cocaine
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- Congenital heart defects
- Side effects of medications like birth control pills, decongestants, cold remedies and over the counter pain relievers
- Problems of the adrenal gland
- Chronic use of alcohol
Risk factors of high blood pressure
The following can increase a person’s chance of developing hypertension
- Family history: High blood pressure (BP) tends to run in families.
- Too much sodium (salt) in your diet: Adding much sodium in your diet can make your body retain much fluid, which increases blood pressure.
- Certain chronic conditions: Chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Too much alcohol intake: Heavy drinking of alcohol can damage your heart with time. Take alcohol in moderation if you do take it. For a healthy adult, one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink equals 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
- Stress: Temporary increase in blood pressure can be a result of high levels of stress.
- Too little potassium in your diet: If a person does not get enough potassium in their diet, they end up accumulating too much sodium in your blood. This is because if the body doesn’t retain enough potassium that helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells, it causes high blood pressure.
- Lack of physical activity: You will be at a higher risk of being overweight. People who are active tend to have lower heart rates compared to those who are inactive. The higher the heart rate, the harder the heart must work with each contraction, and the stronger the force on arteries.
- Tobacco intake: The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of the artery walls and chewing tobacco or smoking immediately raises your blood pressure temporarily. This can cause the artery to narrow down thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.
- Obesity: The pressure on your artery walls increases as the volume of blood circulating through your blood vessels increases. More weight requires more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to the body tissues.
- Race: people of African heritage often develop high blood pressure, particularly at an earlier age compared to the whites.
- Age: As you age, your risks of developing high blood pressure increases. After age 65, then, women get more likely to develop high blood pressure so until about age 64, high blood pressure remains more common in men.
Although high blood pressure is common amongst adults, children may be at risk too. In children, it may be caused by poor lifestyle habits and kidney or heart problems.
High blood pressure Treatment
The type of high blood pressure you have and its cause helps your doctor determine the best treatment option for your condition.
Below are the treatment options:
Treatment options for primary hypertension
When the doctor diagnoses you with primary hypertension, lifestyle changes may be the option to help reduce your high blood pressure. But in a case where only lifestyle changes aren’t enough or if they stop being effective, the doctor may prescribe medication for you.
Treatment options for secondary hypertension
Take an example that a medicine you’ve started taking is causing increased blood pressure then, the doctor will have to try other medications that doesn’t have this side effect. That means when the doctor discovers an underlying issue causing your hypertension, he will administer a treatment that will focus on that other condition.
In a case where the hypertension is persistent despite treatment for the underlying cause, the doctor may adopt pre-defined lifestyle changes and prescribe different medications to help reduce blood pressure.
What worked at first for hypertension treatment may become less useful over time because treatment plans for hypertension often evolve. Your family doctor will continue to work with you to refine your treatment.
Diagnosing high blood pressure
Diagnosing high blood pressure is just all about taking a blood pressure reading. Most hospitals check blood pressure as part of every routine visit, so if you don’t receive a blood pressure reading at any appointment, request one.
Your doctor may request that you have more readings over a specific time (which could be a few days or weeks) if your blood pressure is elevated. The doctor needs to see evidence of a sustained problem before conclusion. It’s very rare to give hypertension diagnosis after just one reading. This is because environmental factors such as stress and time of the day can contribute to increased blood pressure.
Most doctors will conduct more tests to rule out the underlying conditions if your blood pressure remains high. These tests may include:
- Heart or kidney ultrasound
- Blood tests like cholesterol screening
- Urine test
- Hearts electrical activity test with an electrocardiogram.
Any secondary issue causing elevated blood pressure could be identified with these tests. The negative effects high blood pressure could have had on your organs can also be checked by the doctor. Anytime hypertension is diagnosed, the risk of lasting damage may be reduced with early treatment.