According to the American Heart Association, in the United States alone, seventy four million people suffer from this disease. Called the silent killer this disease accounts for thousands of deaths every year. It is the major cause for heart attacks and strokes. This health condition not only afflicts the older population, even individuals in the peak of their life can be affected by this disease. We are taking about hypertension also known as high blood pressure.
What is Blood Pressure?
The force or strength with which the blood presses against the artery walls as it moves through the body is called blood pressure. At birth our blood pressure is about 90/60. As we grow older the blood pressure increases and stands at around 120/80. However when the pressure exerted by the blood gradually increases and the blood pressure reading stands between 120/80 and 139/89 the person is said to be suffering from pre-hypertension.
When the blood pressure reading shoots up to 140/90 or higher, the person is said to be having high blood pressure or hypertension. Treatment should begin immediately when the reading is higher than 200/120.
Systolic and Diastolic Pressure
The higher of the two numbers in a blood pressure reading is referred to as systolic pressure while the lower reading is called the diastolic pressure. The pressure exerted on the arteries as the heart contracts and pushes blood through the arterial walls is called the systolic pressure. The diastolic pressure is the pressure exerted on the arteries by the blood when the heart relaxes.
When the systolic and diastolic pressure readings remain elevated over a long period of time, the risk of developing other health complications like kidney disease, heart disease, artery diseases like arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis and stroke also increases. It is very important to diagnose and treat hypertension or high blood pressure at the initial stages as this health condition if left untreated can lead to organ damage and ultimately organ failure.
Risk Factors For Hypertension
The risk of suffering from hypertension is greater in some individuals than in others. A person falls into the high risk category for becoming hypertensive if he is of African American descent, is overweight, over the age of 55, has a family history of heart disease, diabetes or blood pressure, leads a sedentary lifestyle, consumes excessive amounts of alcohol, is a chain smoker, regularly uses certain types of medication including decongestants and Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs or NSAID and has a diet that is high in saturated fat and salt. Surveys have revealed that women are twice as likely to suffer from high blood pressure as men.
Types of Hypertension
Based on the causative factors, hypertension can be divided into essential and secondary hypertension. 72 million Americans or almost 95 percent of all people suffering from hypertension in America are having essential hypertension. There are many factors which can lead to essential hypertension which is also called primary hypertension.
Excessive salt intake or consuming more than 5.8 grams of salt every day can lead to essential hypertension. The chances of suffering from essential hypertension is further increased if people over the age of 65, having kidney ailments, leading a sedentary lifestyle or are genetically predisposed to hypertension consume excess amounts of salt. The recommended dietary intake of salt for healthy individuals who fall into the age group of 19 to 50 years is about 3.8 grams. Anything in excess of this number can definitely cause essential hypertension in the long run.
Some people are genetically predisposed to suffer from hypertension and such people need to pay extra attention to their diet and lifestyle. Leading an active lifestyle and eating a balanced, low sodium duet can to a certain extent reduce their risk of suffering from essential hypertension. Certain abnormalities of the arteries and chronic inflammation can also increase the chances of a person to suffer from primary hypertension.
When one of the major organs of the body like the kidney or adrenal glands does not function properly, it can lead to secondary hypertension. If fact, five percent of all people with hypertension are suffering from secondary hypertension. Renal hypertension where the kidneys do not function properly is a major cause of secondary hypertension. People with hyperglycemia and those who are extremely obese have a higher chance of suffering from secondary hypertension.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Research has revealed an alarming fact that nearly one third of all people who have hypertension are not aware of its existence. This is because hypertension is mostly an asymptomatic disease or in other words there are not many external signs or symptoms to warn an individual that he is suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure. The best way to detect if you are suffering from hypertension or not is by monitoring your blood pressure regularly.
Some of the subtle symptoms which can forewarn a person of hypertension include vision problem, a pounding sensation in the chest, neck or ears, severe headache, extreme fatigue and a feeling of confusion, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, blood in the urine and irregular heartbeat. In many cases people are unaware of hypertension until they suffer from a stroke or kidney failure.
Treatments For Hypertension
If you are having only a moderately elevated blood pressure reading, then certain consciously taken lifestyle changes can help to bring the raised blood pressure back to normal. Some of the lifestyle changes that a person with slight hypertension can adopt include following a proper exercise regime to loose the excess weight particularly if a person is obese, quitting smoking – as smoking is one the major factors which leads to hypertension, reducing the amount of salt that one takes to less than 1500 milligrams per day.
including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables into the daily diet, avoiding foods which are high in saturated fats and sodium, limiting the number of alcoholic drinks that one consumes over the course of the day and finally doing plenty of high intensity aerobic exercises particularly cardio workouts.
However if a person is suffering from very high blood pressure of severe hypertension, lifestyle changes alone will not control it. Along with some major lifestyle changes a person is advised to take drugs like alpha and beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics and rennin inhibitors among others to bring down the blood pressure. People with hypertension are advised to follow the DASH diet or the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet plan to bring down the blood pressure readings.