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 heart beats, it pumps blood into the vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of the 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 and kidney diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. The burden of hypertension is felt disproportionately in low and middle-income countries, where two thirds of cases are found, largely due to increased risk factors in those populations in recent decades.
Many people with hypertension do not notice symptoms and may be unaware there is a problem. Symptoms can also include:
- Early morning headaches
- Nose bleeding
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Vision changes
- Buzzing in the ears
More severe forms may exhibit fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain and muscle tremors.
If left untreated, hypertension can cause persistent chest pain, heart attacks, heart failure, and an irregular heartbeat, which can lead to sudden death.
Hypertension can also cause strokes by blocking or bursting arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain, as well as kidney damage, which can lead to kidney failure. High blood pressure causes damage to the heart by hardening arteries and decreasing the flood of blood and oxygen to the heart.
Hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure consistently measures greater than 130 mmHg systolic and greater than 80 mmHg diastolic when checked with a sphygmomanometer (A device for checking blood pressure) for more than two readings at least 4 hours apart.
RISK FACTORS FOR HYPERTENSION
There are no known causes of hypertension but there are predisposing factors which can be divided into modifiable and non-modifiable.
Modifiable Risk Factors: These include unhealthy diets (excessive salt consumption, a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats, low intake of fruits and vegetables), physical inactivity, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, and being overweight or obese.
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors: These include a family history of hypertension, age over 65 years and co-existing diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease. Avoiding dietary and behavioral risk factors is doubly important for those with unmodifiable or hereditary risk factors.
Reducing modifiable risk factors is the best way to prevent hypertension and associated diseases of the heart, brain, kidney, and other organs.
Confirmed cases are managed by regular blood pressure measurement and medication prescribed by a medical practitioner.
– Dr. Osagie Omoarebun Oaikhena.