A patient’s guide to high blood pressure.
What to know about causes, symptoms, complications and treatment for hypertension.
An overview of hypertension
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood around the body. As it travels, the blood delivers oxygen to the body’s vital organ. A problem in the body makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. This happens, for example, if an artery becomes too narrow. Persistent high blood pressure puts a strain on the walls of the arteries.
High blood pressure is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls are too high. Usually hypertension is defined as blood pressure above 140/90 and is considered severe if the pressure is 180/120.
What are the causes of high blood pressure?
The exact causes are not known but several things contribute to it, including;
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much salt in a diet
- Too much alcohol consumption
- Older age
- Family history of hypertension
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid disorders
- Sleep apnea
Symptoms of hypertension
Hypertension is generally a silent condition. Many people do not experience any symptoms. In cases where one’s blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, such as ;
- Severe headache
- Fatigue or confusion
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Irregular heart beat
- Blood in urine
- Pounding in the chest, neck or ears
These symptoms require immediate medical attention. They do not occur in everyone with hypertension. The best way to know if one has hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings.
Excessive pressure on the artery walls caused by high blood pressure damages blood vessels, as well as organs in the body. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled the greater the damage.
Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to complications including;
- Heart attack or stroke – high blood pressure hardens and thickens the arteries which lead to heart attack or stroke.
- Aneurysm – increased blood pressure causes the blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life threatening.
- Heart failure
- Trouble with memory or understanding – uncontrolled blood pressure also affects one’s ability to think , remember and learn. Trouble with memory or understanding is more common in people with hypertension.
- Dementia – narrowed or blocked arteries limit blood flow to the brain, leading to a certain type of dementia (vascular dementia) .
To prevent hypertension, one should be encouraged to make lifestyle modifications such as ;
- eating a healthier diet
- Losing of weight
- Quit smoking
- Reduce the amount of sodium in diet
- Getting regular aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking at least 30minutes a day)
- Limiting alcohol to two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women.
Treatment with medication is recommended to lower blood pressure to less than 130/80 in people older than age 65 and those with risk factors such as diabetes and high cholesterol.
Drugs to treat hypertension
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBS)
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Alpha blockers
READ MORE ON HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
- Adam F, November 2019. What to know about high blood pressure. Available at https://www. Medicalnewstoday.com.
- WebMed. Symptoms of high blood pressure. Available at https://www.webmd.com.
- Kimberly H, February 2018. Everything You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). Available at https://www.healthline.com
- Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.com
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