If a person has high blood pressure it means that the walls of the arteries are receiving too much pressure repeatedly, the pressure needs to be chronically elevated for a diagnosis of hypertension to be confirmed.
Measuring blood pressure
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood around the body constantly every second of our lives. Blood that has low oxygen levels is pumped towards the lungs, where oxygen supplies are replenished. The oxygen rich blood is then pumped by the heart around the body to supply our muscles and cells. The pumping of blood creates pressure which is referred to as blood pressure.
When we measure blood pressure, we gauge two types of pressure:
- Systolic pressure: This blood pressure occurs when the heart contracts, specifically the moment of maximum force during the contraction. In other words, when the left ventricle of the heart contracts.
- Diastolic pressure: The blood pressure occurs between heartbeats, when the heart is resting and dilating (opening up, expanding).
When a person’s blood pressure is taken the doctor or nurse needs to measure both the systolic and diastolic pressures. The figures usually appear with a larger number first (systolic pressure), followed by a smaller number (diastolic pressure). The figure will be followed by the abbreviation “mmHg”, which means millimeters of mercury.
If you are told that your blood pressure is 120 over 80 (120/80 mmHg), it means a systolic pressure of 120mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 80mmHg with a consensus across medical guidelines.
What the results of your blood pressure (Bp) says about your health status?
Anyone whose blood pressure is 140/90mmhg or more for a sustained period of time is said to have high blood pressure, or hypertension.
Blood pressure is usually divided into five categories:
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Systolic mmHg 90 or less, or
Diastolic mmHg 60 or less
Systolic mmHg 90-119, and
Diastolic mmHg 60-79
Systolic mmHg 120-139, and
Diastolic mmHg 80-89
- Stage 1 Hypertension
Systolic mmHg 140-159, and
Diastolic mmHg 90-99
- Stage 2 Hypertension
Systolic mmHg over 160, and
Diastolic mmHg over 100
COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Having high blood pressure increases your risk for several health problems, such as:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Vision loss
- Metabolic syndrome
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES;
Are majorly categorized into two, namely:
- Essential high blood pressure (primary high blood pressure)
- Secondary high blood pressure
Even though there is no identifiable cause for essential high blood pressure, there is strong evidence linking some risk factors to the likelihood of developing the condition. Most of the causes list below can be risk factors for essential high blood pressure and secondary high blood pressure:
- Mental stress (time spent thinking)
Various studies have offered compelling evidence that mental stress, especially long term, can have negative effects on blood pressure. A study carried out by researchers at the University of Texas, indicated that the way and manner air traffic controllers handle stress can affect whether they are at risk of developing high blood pressure later in life. Evidence from this study and many others, one can assume that some levels of stress if not managed properly, can be a risk factor for hypertension.
The older you are, the higher your risk of having high blood pressure.
- Family history
If you have close family members with hypertension, your chances of developing it are significantly higher.
Smoking causes the blood vessels to narrow, resulting in higher blood pressure. Smoking also reduces the blood’s oxygen content so the heart has to pump faster in order to compensate, causing a rise in blood pressure.
- Alcohol intake
People who drink regularly have higher systolic blood pressure than people who do not, said researchers from the University of Bristol, UK. They found that systolic blood pressure levels are about 7 mmHg higher in frequent drinkers than in people who do not drink. The risk may even sometimes include people who drink regularly, but not in excess.
- Ethnic background
Evidence in Europe and North America indicates that people with African and/or South Asian ancestry have a higher risk of developing hypertension, compared to people with predominantly Caucasian or Amerindian (indigenous of the Americas) ancestries.
Overweight and obese people are more likely to develop high blood pressure, compared to people of normal weight.
- Physical inactivity
Lack of exercise, as well as having a sedentary lifestyle, raises the risk of hypertension.
- High salt intake
Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System reported that societies where people don’t eat much salt have lower blood pressures than places where people eat a lot of salt.
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing hypertension. Among patients with diabetes type 1, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is a risk factor for incident hypertension in type 1 diabetes intensive insulin therapy reduces the long-term risk of developing hypertension. People with diabetes type 2 are at risk of hypertension due to hyperglycemia, as well as other factors, such as overweight/obesity, certain medications, and some cardiovascular diseases.
- Sleep Deprivation
Sleeping fewer than six hours a night could increase an individual’s blood pressure.
High blood pressure symptoms typically include:
- Headache – may last for several days.
- Nausea – a sensation of unease and discomfort in the stomach with an urge to vomit.
- Vomiting – less common than just nausea.
- Dizziness – Lightheadedness, unsteadiness, and vertigo.
- Blurred or double vision.
- Disagreeable sensations of irregular and or forceful beating of the heart.
- Breathlessness, shortness of breath.
Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms should please see their doctor immediately.
- If you have high blood pressure, it’s best to eat meals low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
- Lifestyle modification, healthy dieting and engaging in constant physical activity.
- Limit or monitor your alcohol consumption as it can raise your blood pressure.
- Too much salt or sodium can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
Fruits and foods containing natural potassium, magnesium and fibre can help reduce high blood pressure . These include:
- Beet greens
- Green beans
- Sweet/white Potatoes
- yogurt (fat-free)
- Lifestyle measures are standard first-line treatment for hypertension, although doctors will prescribe medication alongside lifestyle measures to lower blood pressure in people with a level above 140 over 90.
- Salt restriction: Daily salt intake is between 9 and 12g, modest blood pressure reductions can be achieved even in people with normal levels by lowering salt intake to 5g a day.
- Reduction in alcohol consumption: High alcohol intake is associated with an increased blood pressure and risk of stroke.
- High consumption of vegetables and fruits and low-fat diet: people with, or at risk of, high blood pressures are advised to minimize intake of saturated fat and total fat. Such individuals may eat whole-grain, high-fiber foods, at least 300 g of fruit and vegetables a day, beans, pulses, and nuts, and omega-3-rich fish.
- Reducing weight and maintaining it – hypertension is closely correlated with excess body weight, and weight reduction is followed by a fall in blood pressure
- Regular physical exercise – Some guidelines recommends at least 30 min of moderate-intensity dynamic aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling or swimming) on 5 to 7 days a week for hypertensive patients.
- Stress reduction – Avoiding sources of stress, where possible, and developing healthy coping strategies for managing unavoidable stress can help with blood pressure control, especially as many people turn to alcohol, drugs, smoking and unhealthy foods or overeating to cope with stress.
Drugs are usually prescribed as monotherapy (just one drug) and at a low dose. Side-effects associated with antihypertensive drugs are usually minor
The choice of drug depends on the individual and any other conditions they may have. While a single drug is usually tried in monotherapy first, a combination of at least two antihypertensive drugs is usually required.
Article by: edokita Team.
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- Marcus MacGill. ‘Hypertension: Treatment and Prevention’. Medical News Today. 2016. Web
- Cathy Cassata. ‘High Blood Pressure: Diet’ Everyday health. 2015. Web
- ‘Hypertension: High Blood Pressure Diet’. 2015.Web
- Mayo clinic Staff. ‘High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)’. 2015