Hypertension (High blood pressure) is a condition in which the force exerted by circulating blood against arterial walls is elevated enough that it significantly increases the risk of many health complications.
Blood pressure is measured by both – the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It has two numbers.
- Top number (systolic pressure). The first, or upper, number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart pumps the blood.
- Bottom number (diastolic pressure). The second, or lower, number measures the pressure in your arteries when heart rests.
You can have hypertention for years without any symptoms. Uncontrolled hypertension can cause serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily noticed. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can take help of your doctor to control it.
#There are two types of hypertension. Each type has a distinct cause.
Primary hypertension is also known as essential hypertension. This kind of hypertension develops over time with no noticeable cause. Most people have this type of high blood pressure.
#WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
Researchers are still unclear about the mechanisms that cause blood pressure to slowly increase. A combination of factors may have a role. These factors are:
- Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from your previous generation.
- Physical changes: If something in your body changes, you may begin experiencing problems throughout your body. High blood pressure may be one of those issues. For example, it’s thought that changes in your kidney function due to aging may upset the body’s natural balance of salts and fluid. This change may cause your body’s blood pressure to increase.
- Environment: Over time, unhealthy lifestyle choices like lack of exercise or physical activity and poor diet can take their toll on your body. Lifestyle choices can lead to weight problems. Obesity can increase your risk for hypertension.
Secondary hypertension often occurs faster and can become more severe than primary hypertension.There are several conditions that may cause secondary hypertension. These conditions include:
- kidney disease
- obstructive sleep apnea
- congenital heart defects
- problems with your thyroid
- side effects of medications
- use of illegal drugs
- alcohol abuse or chronic use
- adrenal gland problems
- certain endocrine tumors
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension is usually a silent condition. Many people won’t experience any symptoms. It may take years or even decades for the condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become visible. Even then, these symptoms may be attributed to other issues.
Symptoms of severe hypertension can include:
- shortness of breath(dyspnea)
- nose bleeds
- chest pain
- visual changes
- blood in the urine(hematuria)
These symptoms need immediate medical attention. They don’t occur in everyone with hypertension, but waiting for a symptom of this condition to appear could be life threatening.
The best way to know if you have hypertension is to check blood pressure regularly . Most doctor’s clinics take a blood pressure reading at every appointment.
There are several risk factors for high blood pressure. These include:
- Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as your age increases. Until about 64 years of age, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop hypertention pressure after age 65.
- Race. High blood pressure is especially common among people of African heritage, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious health problems, such as stroke, heart attack and kidney failure, also are more common in people of African heritage.
- Family history. Hypertention tends to run in families.
- Being obese. The more weight you have, the more blood is required to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the amount of blood flow through your blood vessels increases, pressure on your arterial walls also increases.
- Not being physically active. People who are inactive tend to have increased heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of obesity.
- Using tobacco. Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage arterial wall linings. This can lead to narrower arteries to and increase your risk of heart disease. On the other hand smoke also can increase the risk of heart disease.
- Too much salt (sodium) in your diet. Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to withhold fluid, which raises blood pressure.
- Too little potassium in your diet. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. A proper balance of potassium is critical for good heart health. If you don’t take required potassium in your diet, or you lose too much potassium due to dehydration or other health conditions, sodium can increase in your blood.
- Drinking too much alcohol. Over time, excessive drinking can damage your heart. Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men may affect your blood pressure.If you drink alcohol, do so in limitation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
- Stress. Increased levels of stress can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure. Stress-related habits such as over eating , tobacco consumption or drinking alcohol can lead to further increases in blood pressure.
- Certain chronic conditions. some chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease,sleep apnea may increase your risk of hypertention.
Sometimes pregnancy also leads to high blood pressure as well.
Although high blood pressure is most common in adults, children may be at risk, too. For some children, hypertention is caused by problems with the kidneys or heart. But for a growing number of children, poor lifestyle habits such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise can also lead to high blood pressure.
The excessive pressure exerted on your arterial walls due to hypertention can damage your blood vessels as well as your organs. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes unchecked, the greater the damage.
Unchecked high blood pressure can cause complications including:
- Heart attack or stroke. Elevated blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other problems.
- Aneurysm. Increased blood pressure can cause your blood vessels to weaken and bulge out, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be fatal.
- Heart failure. To pump blood against the higher pressure in your vessels, the heart has to work more. This causes the walls of the heart’s chamber to thicken (left ventricular hypertrophy). Finally, the thickened muscle may have a hard time pumping sufficient blood to meet your body’s requirement, which can contribute to heart failure.
- Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys. This can prevent these organs from normal functioning.
- Thickened, narrowed or ruptured blood vessels in the eyes. This can lead to loss of vision.
- Metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a group of disorders of your body’s metabolism, which includes increased waist size, high triglycerides, reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), high blood pressure and high levels of insulin. These conditions make you prone to have diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
- Trouble with memory or understanding. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may also affect thinking ability, memory and learning capacity. Problem with memory or understanding concepts is more common in people with hypertention.
- Dementia. Narrowed or blocked arteries can reduce the blood flow to the brain,causing a certain type of dementia called as vascular dementia.A stroke that resists blood flow to the brain also can cause vascular dementia.
How to understand high blood pressure readings
Two numbers make a blood pressure reading:
- Systolic pressure: This is the first, or upper number. It showss the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats or pumps out blood.
- Diastolic pressure: This is the second, or lower or bottom, number. It’s the reading of the pressure in your arteries between beats of your heart or when heart is at rest.
Five categories define blood pressure readings for adults:
- Healthy:A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
- Elevated:The systolic pressure is between 120 and 129 mm Hg, and the diastolic pressure is less than 80 mm Hg. Doctors usually don’t treat raised blood pressure with medication. Instead, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes to help reduce your pressure.
- Stage 1 hypertension: The systolic pressure is between 130 and 139 mm Hg, and the diastolic pressure is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension: The systolic pressure is 140 mm Hg or more, or the diastolic number is 90 mm Hg or more.
- Hypertensive crisis: The systolic pressure is over 180 mm Hg, or the diastolic pressure is over 120 mm Hg. Blood pressure in this range needs immediate medical attention. If any of these symptoms such as chest pain, headache, shortness of breath (dyspnea), or visual changes occur when blood pressure is this high, medical care in the emergency room is required.
A blood pressure is measured with a pressure cuff. For an accurate reading, it’s important you have a cuff that fits. An low fitting cuff may gives inaccurate readings.
Blood pressure readings are different for children and teenagers. Ask your child’s doctor for the normal ranges for your child if you’re asked to check their blood pressure.
Treatment options for high blood pressure
A number of factors help your doctor determine the best treatment option for you. These factors are : type of hypertension you have and causes that have been identified.
Primary hypertension treatment options
If your doctor diagnoses you with primary hypertension, lifestyle changes may help decrease your high blood pressure. If lifestyle changes alone are not sufficient, or if they are not that effective, your doctor may prescribe medication.
Secondary hypertension treatment options
If your doctor finds an underlying issue causing your hypertension, treatment will be targetted on that other condition. For example, if a medicine you’ve started taking is causing increased blood pressure, your doctor will try other medicines that don’t have this side effect.
Sometimes, hypertension is persistent in spite of treatment for the underlying cause. In this case, your doctor may suggest to bring some lifestyle changes and prescribe medications to help reduce your blood pressure.
Treatment plans for hypertension often evolve what worked at first may become less useful over time. Your doctor will continue to work with you to refine your treatment.
High blood pressure during pregnancy
Women with hypertension can give birth to healthy babies despite having hypertention. But it can be dangerous to both mother and baby if it’s not watched closely and managed during the pregnancy.
Women with high blood pressure are more likely to develop complications. For example, pregnant women with hypertension may experience reduced kidney functions. Babies born with hypertensive mothers may have a low birth weight or be born prematurely.
Some women may develop hypertension during their pregnancies. Several types of hypertention related problems can develop. The condition often reverses itself once the baby is born. Developing hypertension during pregnancy may increase your risk for developing hypertension later in life.
In some cases, pregnant women with hypertension may develop preeclampsia during their pregnancy. This condition of raised blood pressure can cause kidney and other organ complications. This can result in high protein levels in the urine, issues with liver function, fluid in the lungs, or visual problems.
As this condition worsens, the risks increase for the mother and baby. Preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, which can lead to seizures. High blood pressure problems in pregnancy remain an important cause of maternal death in the United States. Complications for the baby such as low birth weight, early birth, and stillbirth(death of baby during partition).
There is no well known way to prevent preeclampsia, and the only way to cure this condition is to deliver the baby. If you develop this condition during your pregnancy, your doctor will closely monitor you for complications.
Effects of high blood pressure on the body?
Because hypertension is often a silent condition, it can cause damage to your body for years before symptoms become obvious. If hypertension isn’t treated, you may face serious life threatening complications.
Complications of hypertension includes:
Healthy arteries are strong resilient or flexible and Blood flows freely and without any restrictions through healthy arteries and vessels.
Hypertension makes arteries harder, tighter, and less elastic. This damage makes it easier for dietary fats to deposit in your arteries and restrict blood flow. This damage can lead to elevated blood pressure, blockages, and, eventually, heart attack and stroke.
Hypertension makes your heart work too hard. Elevated pressure in your blood vessels forces your heart’s muscles to pump more frequently and with large force than a healthy heart should have to.
This may contribute to an enlarged heart. An enlarged heart increases your risk for the following complications:
- heart failure
- arrhythmias(irregular heartbeat)
- sudden cardiac death
- heart attack
Your brain depends on a healthy supply of oxygen-rich blood to work efficiently. High blood pressure can reduce blood supply to your brain.
- Temporary or transient blockages of blood flow to the brain are called transient ischemic attacks (TIAs).
- Significant blockages of blood flow cause brain cells to die. This is called as a stroke.
Uncontrolled hypertension may also affect your memory, learning or recalling ability , speach, and reasoning. Treating hypertension often doesn’t remove or reverse the effects of uncontrolled hypertension. It does, however, reduce the risks for future complications.