Hypertension – The silent killer you should know about

 

Hypertension is a problem worldwide, and it is estimated that by 2025, there will be more than one and a half billion people in the world living with the condition

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is high blood pressure. When blood flows inside blood vessels, blood pressure is the force of the flowing blood against the walls of the vessels. When this force is above a certain reading, blood pressure is high.

Blood pressure is measured by having a blood pressure meter (a sphygmomanometer) cuff put around your upper arm while you’re sitting down, with your arm elevated so that the cuff is at the same level as your heart. To ensure an accurate reading, empty your bladder first and take off as many clothing layers as possible around your arm. The cuff is inflated rapidly, and then air is released from the cuff at a slower rate.

The person taking the measurement uses a stethoscope to listen for a specific knocking sound, which indicates your systolic pressure (when the heart beats and pumps out blood). When the knocking sound disappears, they listen for the diastolic pressure (between heartbeats).

An example of a blood pressure reading is 120/80 mmHg − 120 being the systolic pressure, and 80 the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure ranges are categorised as follows for adults:

  • Normal or healthy blood pressure: 120/80
  • Prehypertension: 120-139 systolic or 80 -89 diastolic
  • Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159 systolic or 90-99 diastolic
  • Stage 2 hypertension: Over 160 systolic or over 100 diastolic

Hypertension often has no symptoms

This means that you could be living with hypertension and not know it. This is bad because damage to your internal organs and blood vessels could be happening without you realising it.

That is why it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly to detect hypertension as early as possible. If treatment is started early, your risk of permanent damage is decreased.

Why is hypertension a problem?

High blood pressure can lead to numerous health issues, such as headaches, disturbances of vision, nausea and vomiting. It can even affect your levels of consciousness, lead to sleeplessness and in severe cases, seizures. It can cause narrowing of the blood vessels, and heart disease, and it can lead to sudden heart attack or stroke, which can be fatal.

When symptoms do occur, they vary

Shortness of breath, a pounding heartbeat, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, blood in the urine and nosebleeds can point to high blood pressure, but also to other problems. If you experience any of these for an extended period, rather get to your doctor as soon as possible.

Treatment for hypertension

If a doctor finds that your blood pressure is elevated, you may have to return for a number of visits for the doctor to establish with certainty that the reading remains high.

If a doctor finds that your blood pressure is elevated, you may have to return for a number of visits for the doctor to establish with certainty that the reading remains high.

For prehypertension, the doctor will most likely encourage you to make some lifestyle changes to improve your blood pressure. Lifestyle changes could include eating a healthier diet, getting more exercise and controlling stress.

For stage 1 and stage 2 hypertension, treatment will include prescription medicine in addition to lifestyle changes.

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