What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is chronically elevated. With every heart beat, the heart pumps blood through the arteries to the rest of the body. Blood pressure is the force of blood that is pushing up against the walls of the blood vessels. If the pressure is too high, the heart has to work harder to pump, and this could lead to organ damage and several illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aneurysm, or renal failure.
The normal level for blood pressure is below 120/80, where 120 represents the systolic measurement (peak pressure in the arteries) and 80 represents the diastolic measurement (minimum pressure in the arteries). Blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is called prehypertension (to denote increased risk of hypertension), and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered hypertension.
What Causes Hypertension?
Though the exact causes of hypertension are usually unknown, there are several factors that have been highly associated with the condition. These include:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of physical activity
- High levels of salt intake (sodium sensitivity)
- Insufficient calcium, potassium, and magnesium consumption
- Vitamin D deficiency
- High levels of alcohol consumption
- Medicines such as birth control pills
- Genetics and a family history of hypertension
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid problems or tumors
How Is Hypertension Treated?
The main goal of treatment for hypertension is to lower blood pressure to less than 140/90 – or even lower in some groups such as people with diabetes, and people with chronic kidney diseases. Treating hypertension is important for reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
High blood pressure may be treated medically, by changing lifestyle factors, or a combination of the two. Important lifestyle changes include losing weight, quitting smoking, eating a healthful diet, reducing sodium intake, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol consumption.
Medical options to treat hypertension include several classes of drugs. ACE inhibitors, ARB drugs, beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, and peripheral vasodilators are the primary drugs used in treatment. These medications may be used alone or in combination, and some are only used in combination. In addition, some of these drugs are preferred to others depending on the characteristics of the patient (diabetic, pregnant, etc.).
If blood pressure is successfully lowered, it is wise to have frequent checkups and to take preventive measures to avoid a relapse of hypertension.
How Can Hypertension Be Prevented?
Hypertension can best be prevented by adjusting your lifestyle so that proper diet and exercise are key components. It is important to maintain a healthy weight, reduce salt intake, reduce alcohol intake, and reduce stress.
In order to prevent damage to critical organs and conditions such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure that may be caused by high blood pressure, it is important to screen, diagnose, treat, and control hyper tension in its earliest stages. This can also be accomplished by increasing public awareness and increasing the frequency of screenings for the condition.