What is Hypertension?

Hypertension is the medical term given to High Blood Pressure. High blood pressure or “BP” has sadly become a household term these days. One should know the exact biochemical processes that occur in the body, which leads to the conclusion that someone has hypertension.

Blood pressure is the force exerted by the circulating blood against the blood vessels or arteries in the body (1). Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood the heart pumps out as well as the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. This is essentially known as High BP or hypertension.

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg), and it has two numbers :

Top number (systolic pressure). The first, or upper, number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.

Bottom number (diastolic pressure). The second, or lower, number measures the pressure in your arteries between heart beats (2)

Five categories define blood pressure readings for adults:

  • Healthy: A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).
  • Elevated: The systolic number is between 120 and 129 mm Hg, and the diastolic number is less than 80 mm Hg. Doctors usually don’t treat elevated blood pressure with medication. Instead, your doctor may encourage lifestyle changes to help lower these numbers.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: The systolic number is between 130 and 139 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: The systolic number is 140 mm Hg or higher, or the diastolic number is 90 mm Hg or higher.

Hypertensive crisis: In such cases, the systolic number is over 180 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is over 120 mm Hg. Blood pressure in this range requires urgent medical attention. If any symptoms like chest pain, headache, shortness of breath, or visual changes occur when blood pressure is this high, medical care in the emergency room is needed. (3)

Symptoms of Hypertension

Hypertension can occur in a person’s body for years without being explicitly detected. However, once detected, it is easily treatable. It is therefore important to watch out for the following symptoms of hypertension

Flushing of the skin – occurs when there is an excess of blood supply to certain parts of the body and commonly occurs in the face. Skin flushing can suddenly redden the face, neck, or upper chest. Suppose there are no other plausible reasons like menopause or intense exercise. In that case, one must consult a doctor immediately in case of such symptoms. (4)

Hypertension headache- A hypertension headache usually occurs on both sides of the head and is typically worse with any activity. It often has a pulsating quality. This kind of headache signals an emergency. It occurs when your blood pressure becomes dangerously high.

 A throbbing headache can also signify hypertension headache, and immediate medical help should be sought in such cases. (5). 

• back pain that is not caused by any external injury.

• difficulty in speaking due to shortness of breath.

• numbness or prolonged weakness.

• severe anxiety.

• blurred or distorted vision. (6)

• blood spots in the eyes (subconjunctival haemorrhage)

• dizziness (3)

Since high blood pressure is a silent killer, it is advisable for people above 40 and people of the age group 18-39, who are vulnerable to hypertension due to other factors, to get their blood pressure checked periodically by a trusted physician.

What Are The Leading Causes of Hypertension?

There are two types of hypertension and each has its own set of different causes.

1. Essential hypertension- it is also known as primary hypertension, and most people develop it over time due to several factors like –

  • Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from parents.
  • Age: Individuals over 65 years old are more at risk for hypertension.
  • Living with obesity: Living with obesity is unhealthy overall and can lead to a few cardiac issues, including hypertension. 
  • High alcohol consumption: Women who habitually have more than one drink per day and men who have more than two drinks per day may have increased risk for hypertension.
  • Living a very sedentary lifestyle: lower levels of fitness and prolonged periods of being inactive have been connected to hypertension.
  • Living with diabetes and/or any metabolic syndrome: Individuals diagnosed with diabetes or metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.
  • High sodium intake: There’s a small association between daily high sodium intake (more than 1.5g a day) and hypertension. (3)

2. Secondary Hypertension- This is a quick moving process that can affect the body at a greater speed. Secondary hypertension can occur as a result of pre-existing conditions like –

Pulmonary hypertension is a type of secondary hypertension. It is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart.

In one form of pulmonary hypertension, called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), blood vessels in the lungs are narrowed, blocked or destroyed. The damage slows blood flow through the lungs, which results in the blood pressure in the lung arteries to rise. This means the heart must work harder to pump blood through the lungs. The extra effort eventually causes the heart muscles to become weak and fail. (7)

Although there’s no cure for some types of pulmonary hypertension, early detection and treatment* can help reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life.  

To help reverse pulmonary hypertension at home, it is recommended to consume a diet with limited salt and no excess consumption of water. This is because people with PAH tend to retain water. Eating high sodium foods and drinking more water than necessary leads to fluid retention in the abdomen and legs, which can be very painful later.

It helps to stay away from foods with a lot of sodium, like chips, lunch meat, canned foods, frozen foods, and fast food. (8)

Light exercise and restful sleep are also helpful in reversing pulmonary hypertension.

Another type of hypertension is Portal hypertension, which is caused due to elevated pressure in the portal venous system. The portal vein is a major vein that leads to the liver. The most common cause of portal hypertension is cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver. 

People with advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis, have an increased risk of developing portal hypertension. Be aware of unusual symptoms and report them to your doctor right away. Symptoms and signs of portal hypertension include:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding: noticing blood in the stools, vomiting blood if any large vessels around your stomach developed due to portal hypertension rupture.
  • Ascites: Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, causing swelling
  • Encephalopathy, or confusion and fogginess in thinking
  • Jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
  • Oedema (swelling) of the legs
  • Caput medusa, a visible network of dilated veins surrounding the navel (9)

Treatment for Hypertension

In case of experiencing any of the symptoms above, one must consult a doctor or a Functional Nutritionist immediately to treat hypertension. Keeping that in mind, the following are a few lifestyle changes to reverse cases of hypertension at home –

• lifestyle changes like eating a healthy, nutritious diet to ensure the body’s nutritional requirements are met.

• Having an appropriate amount of salt in your diet. Salt in extremes, i.e. too much or too less, can be harmful.

• ditching the sedentary lifestyle and getting moderate levels of exercise under supervision.

• increasing physical activity in your daily routine – even things like taking the stairs instead of an elevator can help a great deal in contributing to a healthy lifestyle.

• eating potassium rich foods like milk and yogurt, including foods like fish, bananas, avocados, apricots, oranges in your diet. 

• limiting the intake of processed foods

• cutting down on alcohol intake

• cutting down consumption of caffeinated and carbonated beverages

• losing weight gradually

• stop smoking altogether if you are a smoker. (10,11)

While hearing terms like “High BP” and “high sugar” have become standard these days, we must endeavour to make being healthy the new normal. The above remedies can be useful to control hypertension. However, addressing the root causes of such issues with proper consultation can help save a lifetime of distress and discomfort.

Not all remedies work the same way for everyone or may work for some time, but to treat the issue altogether. One must first find out the reason for the problem and then work on eliminating it. This will, in turn, help them treat the health issue once and for all.

References :

Sukanya Krishnan

Sukanya is a lawyer by education and has also completed CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) from Cambridge University, conducted by the British Council. She has experience in content writing and is currently exploring the field further through freelance projects.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.