Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition that signifies that the pressure in your arteries is higher than normal.
Blood pressure is the measurement of the amount of blood passing through your arteries and the force it exerts on your vessel walls. When this is high, the heart will need to do more work to pump blood, and this can put too much strain on the heart. If not treated, it can cause heart attack, stroke and other health problems.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg), and normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or lower, but high blood pressure is 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
There are two main types of hypertension with different causes: primary or essential hypertension and secondary hypertension.
There are no specific causes for these types of hypertension; they tend to develop gradually over the years. However, a number of factors play significant roles in their development.
- Age: People who are over 60 are at risk of high blood pressure.
- Genes: People are genetically predisposed to high blood pressure due to genetic abnormalities or gene mutations.
- Obesity: Being overweight can increase the risk of high blood pressure.
- Race: high blood pressure is more common among black non-Hispanic individuals
- Alcohol consumption: Men who take more than 2 drinks per day and women who have more than 1 drink per day are at risk of high blood pressure.
- High sodium intake: High salt intake increases water retention in the bloodstream, which means there will be an increased volume of blood in the vessels, leading to high blood pressure.
- Diabetes: People with high blood sugar, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome are at higher risk of developing hypertension.
- Living a sedentary lifestyle: Low fitness levels are also connected to high blood pressure.
This type of hypertension occurs suddenly and is usually due to an underlying condition such as
- Kidney disease.
- Thyroid problems.
- Use of hard drugs.
- Adrenal gland tumors.
- Obstructive sleep apnea.
- Alcohol addiction.
- Congenital heart defects.
- Cold and cough medications, pain relievers, contraceptives and other prescription drugs.
Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms. It is possible to have this condition for years without seeing any signs, so the symptoms aren’t specific. Still, people with severe hypertension may notice a headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, blood spots in the eyes, flushing and nosebleeds. The only way to know for sure if you have hypertension is by checking with a blood pressure monitor.
Lifestyle changes are necessary to manage and control high blood pressure; here are some of the changes a healthcare provider may recommend.
- Quit smoking.
- Limit alcohol.
- Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.
- Get involved in physical activity and mild exercise.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet with less salt.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Some medications used to treat high blood pressure include:
- Water pills (diuretics).
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs).
- Calcium channel blockers.
- Alpha-beta blockers.
- Aldosterone antagonists.
- Central-acting agents.