Hypertension can be a sneaky condition. You might not even know you have it until it's been present for a while. But don't let its silent nature fool you; it can have serious consequences if left untreated.
In simple terms, hypertension occurs when the pressure of your blood against your artery walls is consistently too high. Think of it like a balloon that's being over-inflated. While a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mmHg, hypertension is diagnosed when it consistently exceeds 140/90 mmHg.
This chronic medical condition is quite common, affecting millions of people around the globe. Unfortunately, Hypertension is a common health problem that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and kidney disease. So it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, and to take steps to manage your blood pressure if necessary.
Causes of Hypertension
Hypertension comes in two types, each with its own causes.
- Essential hypertension - Also known as primary hypertension, this type develops slowly over time and can be caused by various factors such as:
- Genetics: Some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension due to gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from parents.
- Age: People over 65 years old are at higher risk of developing hypertension.
- Obesity: Living with obesity can lead to various 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 an increased risk of hypertension.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Prolonged periods of being inactive and lower levels of fitness have been linked to hypertension.
- Metabolic syndrome: Individuals diagnosed with diabetes or metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.
- High sodium intake: Daily high sodium intake (more than 1.5g a day) has a small association with hypertension.
- Secondary Hypertension - This type can occur suddenly due to pre-existing conditions such as:
- Kidney diseases
- Sleep apnea
- Congenital heart defects
- Thyroid problems
- Side effects of medications
- Use of illegal drugs
- Chronic alcohol consumption
- Adrenal gland problems
- Certain endocrine tumors
Pulmonary hypertension is another type of hypertension that affects the arteries in the lungs and right side of the heart. In one form, called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), blood vessels in the lungs are narrowed, blocked, or destroyed. This slows blood flow through the lungs, causing the blood pressure in lung arteries to rise. The heart must work harder to pump blood, eventually causing the heart muscles to weaken and fail. Although there is no cure for some types of pulmonary hypertension, early detection and treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
To help reverse pulmonary hypertension at home, limit salt intake and avoid excess water consumption. People with PAH tend to retain water, which can cause painful fluid retention in the abdomen and legs. Avoid high-sodium foods like chips, lunch meat, canned foods, frozen foods, and fast food. Light exercise and restful sleep are also helpful in managing pulmonary hypertension.
Portal hypertension is caused by high pressure in the portal venous system, which leads to the liver. The most common cause of portal hypertension is cirrhosis of the liver. People with advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis, have an increased risk. Report any unusual symptoms to your doctor, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, ascites (abdominal swelling), encephalopathy (confusion), jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), leg swelling, or caput medusa (visible network of dilated veins around the navel).
Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension is often referred to as the "silent killer" because it may not cause any noticeable symptoms until it has reached a dangerous level. However, some common symptoms of hypertension may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
It is essential to monitor your blood pressure regularly to catch hypertension early before it leads to severe health problems.
Diagnosing hypertension is easy and straightforward. Your doctor can check your blood pressure during a routine visit. If they don't check your blood pressure, feel free to ask for it.
If your blood pressure is high, your doctor may ask you to have more readings over several days or weeks. They usually don't diagnose hypertension after just one reading. That's because your blood pressure can be influenced by different factors, like stress or the time of day.
If your blood pressure remains elevated, your doctor may perform some tests to rule out any underlying conditions that might be causing it. These tests can include cholesterol screening, blood tests, an electrocardiogram, an ultrasound of your heart or kidneys, or monitoring your blood pressure at home for 24 hours.
These tests can help your doctor identify any secondary issues causing your high blood pressure and evaluate the effects it might have had on your organs.
During this process, your doctor may begin treating your hypertension. Early treatment can help reduce your risk of lasting damage.
Hypertension can be managed through lifestyle changes, medication, or a combination of both. Making healthy lifestyle changes can help control blood pressure levels, and some changes may include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Managing stress levels
If lifestyle changes alone are not enough to control hypertension, medication may be necessary. Several types of medication can lower blood pressure, including:
- ACE inhibitors: This medication relaxes blood vessels and decreases the volume of blood the heart pumps, reducing blood pressure.
- Diuretics: This medication increases urine output, which can reduce the amount of fluid in the bloodstream and lower blood pressure.
- Beta-blockers: This medication reduces the heart's workload and the amount of oxygen it needs, which can lower blood pressure.
- Calcium channel blockers: This medication relaxes blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily and reducing blood pressure.
If you're concerned about developing hypertension, there are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk and avoid complications.
- Firstly, aim to eat more fruits and vegetables. Start with seven servings per day and gradually increase to 10 servings. Watch out for hidden sugar in packaged foods and try to limit your intake of sugar-sweetened foods like flavored yogurts, cereals, and sodas.
- It's also important to reduce your sodium intake. Cooking fresh foods more often and avoiding fast food and pre-packaged foods can help with this. If your doctor has recommended weight loss, set achievable goals and consider working with a trainer, fitness app or dietician.
- Regular monitoring of your blood pressure is key to catching hypertension early. Keep a log of your blood pressure readings and take it to your appointments with your doctor. This can help identify any potential issues before they become more serious.
1. What is the medical term meaning high blood pressure?
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.
2. How does pulmonary arterial hypertension affect the lungs?
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 increase.
3. What is high blood pressure measured in?
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
4. What are the stages of hypertension?
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.
5. What do the blood pressure numbers mean?
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.
6. How is blood pressure determined?
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.