Hypertension is a chronic health condition also known as high blood pressure. In hypertension the blood pressure in arteries is elevated. Normal blood pressure values ranges within 90-120/60-80 mmHg. A person is considered as hypertensive if blood pressure measurements are persistently observed above 140/90 mmHg. This disease is known as a silent enemy, as in most cases it goes completely asymptomatic yet causing significant damage over time. Most of the damage is done to kidneys, heart and blood vessels. If hypertension is not treated, it can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
Some of the signs and symptoms related to high blood pressure are headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, buzzing in the ears and fainting.
The risk factors for developing hypertension are tobacco smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, overweight, high alcohol intake, family history of hypertension, high levels of stress, and a diet with high salt intake. Some health conditions may also account for increasing blood pressure, such as kidney disease, endocrine diseases (e.g. thyroid problems) or metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes).
Hypertension is diagnosed by doing blood pressure measurements with a sphygmomanometer. If the first measurement shows a blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg a second or third measurement should be perform on monthly intervals. Persistent high blood pressure measurement makes the final diagnosis. Individuals that fall into stage I hypertension classification have blood pressure measurements within 140-159/90-99 mmHg. Stage 2 hypertension individuals have blood pressure measurements of 160 mmHg or higher/ 100 mmHg or higher.
Once hypertension is diagnosed your physician will try to find the underlying cause of your hypertension. The treatment includes changes in your diet and lifestyle and in most cases medication.
According to health organizations, hypertension accounts for more heart related deaths worldwide. It is considered that more than 50% of hypertensive people in the world do not know about their condition, increasing their risk of heart attack or other cardiovascular related complications.
What can you do to prevent hypertension?
- Stay fit. Do at least 30 minutes of exercise on daily basis.
- Watch your weight. Overweight is a common cause of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Try to stay within your normal weight values.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco particles in your bloodstream increase your blood pressure. Quitting smoking not only will lower your chances of becoming hypertensive but will also save you from several other diseases.
- Lower your stress level. A stressful lifestyle is deleterious for your blood pressure. Try to stay calm and relaxed by doing relaxation activities such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
- Watch your diet. Moderate your salt intake by consuming 2,300 mg a day or less. Individuals who are 51 years old or older should consume at the most 1500 mg per day. Incorporate healthy food to your diet such as vegetables, fruits and wholegrain grains. Try to avoid saturated fat and eat low-fat dairy products.
- Do regular blood pressure measurements at home. Monitoring your blood pressure at home can help you in finding abnormal values faster and therefore making changes in your lifestyle to avoid cardiovascular complications. Especially if you have family history of hypertension, regular blood pressure measurements are highly recommended.
By following these 6 points you will significantly reduce your chance of developing hypertension and therefore your risk of death due to stroke or heart disease.
By Maria Flores