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Hypertension

Updated: 20 Sep 2023, 12:59 pm IST
Medically Reviewed by

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a common health condition characterised by increased blood pressure levels in the arteries. It is generally referred to as the “silent killer” as it shows no symptoms until severe damage has occurred.

hypertension

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted on the blood vessel wall while the blood flows through the blood vessels. The heart pumps blood into the arteries, which transport the blood throughout the human body. Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a common health condition characterised by increased blood pressure levels in the arteries. It is generally referred to as the “silent killer” because it usually shows no symptoms until severe damage has occurred.

Blood pressure is usually measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is typically expressed as two numbers: systolic or top number and diastolic or bottom number. Generally, 120/80 mm Hg is considered as normal blood pressure. Anything over this number would make you vulnerable to several complications like heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications. There are many risk factors that can lead to hypertension like genetics, lack of physical activity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, chronic stress, diet, and obesity.

It is crucial to recognise the symptoms of hypertension so that you can manage it in time and avoid complications. The key to managing hypertension is to lead to a healthy lifestyle such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, weight control, reduced salt intake, and taking proper medication.

Causes of Hypertension

There are various causes of hypertension or high blood pressure, including:

  • Having a family history of hypertension
  • A diet high in sodium (salt), saturated fats, and processed foods
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Chronic stress
  • Older age
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Hormonal disorders like hyperthyroidism
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea
  • No physical activity
  • Diabetes
  • Low-potassium diet
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Certain medication

Key Facts of Hypertension

Major Symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nosebleeds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest, neck, or ear pain
  • Visual changes
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Blood spots in eyes
Necessary Health Tests

While the main test conducted is ambulatory monitoring to measure your blood pressure levels. However, your doctor may ask you to do blood and urine tests to check for condition that could worsen the problem.The healthcare provider may also conduct an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram to see the condition of the heart and how much your blood pressure is affecting your health.

Treatment

Hypertension can be treated by making lifestyle modifications such as doing physical activity, reducing sodium intake, eating healthy and keeping your weight in check. Your doctor will also recommend some medication along with these lifestyle changes to help you keep your blood pressure levels in check.

Symptoms of Hypertension

Hypertension or high blood pressure typically doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms so you might not even know that you have it. The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get regular check-ups. While it may not show any signs, you might experience the following symptoms if your blood pressure is extremely high.

  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nosebleeds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest, neck, or ear pain
  • Visual changes
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Blood spots in eyes

One must notice that these symptoms are not exclusive to hypertension and can be caused by various other medical conditions. Plus, most people don’t experience any symptoms at all until they undergo regular blood pressure checks. Regular blood pressure monitoring is important for early detection and management of hypertension because it often develops silently.

Diagnosis of Hypertension

Diagnosing hypertension typically includes a series of blood pressure measurements and sometimes additional tests to determine the presence and severity of the condition. The initial step in diagnosing hypertension is to measure your blood pressure level. The doctor will check two readings:

  • Systolic Pressure: The pressure in your arteries when your heart pumps blood into the arteries during each beat.
  • Diastolic Pressure: The pressure in your arteries when your heart relaxes between two beats.

Classification of blood pressure

  • Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Elevated blood pressure: When your systolic number is between 120-129 mm Hg and the diastolic number is below 80 mm Hg.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: Systolic number between 130-139 mm Hg or diastolic between 80-89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: Systolic number over 140 mm Hg and diastolic number over 90 mm Hg.

Blood pressure over 180 mm Hg is considered dangerous and needs immediate medical attention. If you notice any symptoms like chest pain, headache, or shortness of breath, contact your doctor immediately.

Treatment of Hypertension

The treatment of the condition majorly depends on the severity of the condition. You would be required to change your lifestyle habits and take medicines.

Lifestyle modifications

Changing your lifestyle is the primary course of treatment for hypertension. Here are some factors that you need to inculcate in your regimen:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Reduce salt intake as excessive sodium intake can elevate your blood pressure levels.
  • Keep your weight in check through a balanced diet and regular exercise to control your blood pressure levels.
  • Engage in regular physical activity, such as brisk walking or aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes per week to lower your blood pressure levels.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol as it can raise your blood pressure levels.
  • Stress is another factor that leads to hypertension, so it is best to manage your stress levels.

Medications

  • Beta-blockers: These medications reduce heart rate and the force of heart contractions, lowering blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: ACE Inhibitors relax blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and making it easier for the heart to pump.
  • Diuretics: These drugs help the body eliminate excess sodium and water, reducing blood volume and pressure.
  • Other Antihypertensive Medications: Depending on individual circumstances, other classes of medications may be prescribed, such as alpha-blockers, central alpha agonists, or direct renin inhibitors.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers: These drugs relax and widen blood vessels, reducing pressure on the heart.
  • Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs): They help relax blood vessels by blocking the effects of angiotensin II, a hormone that narrows blood vessels.
  • Regular Monitoring: It’s crucial to monitor blood pressure regularly, either at home or through doctor’s visits, to ensure that treatment is effective and blood pressure remains within target ranges.

While these treatment options may work for most people with hypertension, they should be tailored to individual needs and may evolve over time. Healthcare providers will adjust treatment based on the patient’s response to the medication and changes in their health status.

Hypertension Related FAQs

Can I stop taking medication once my blood pressure levels are in control?

Hypertension is a lifelong disease and it can be controlled by medicines. If you have started taking medication to control your blood pressure levels, you will have to take it for the rest of your life. You can manage your condition by following healthy lifestyle habits and medication. You must not stop taking medication without consulting your doctor.

Is being obese directly related to having hypertension?

Obese or overweight people are more likely to suffer from hypertension. Keeping your weight in check is one of the most important factors that helps keep your blood pressure in check.

Is hypertension common in menopausal women?

A lack of estrogen during menopause can cause your blood pressure levels to rise, however, other factors such as eating an unhealthy diet, following a sedentary lifestyle, weight gain, etc. may also contribute to the problem.

How do I measure my blood pressure properly?

Sit down and relax for at least 5 minutes before the reading. Your feet should be flat on the ground. Now, tie the blood pressure cuff around the arm and rest the arm on the table at chest height. Make sure the cuff is neither too tight nor too loose.

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