Hypertension or High blood pressure is a non-communicable but preventable disease which is on a rapid increase throughout the globe. It is a condition in which the pressure exerted by blood on the arterial walls increases. When the heart contracts, pressure on arterial walls increases and is known systolic blood pressure. The normal systolic blood pressure is around 120 mmHg. In hypertensive patients, the systolic blood pressure exceeds 140 mmHg. Similarly, blood pressure when the heart is relaxed known as diastolic blood pressure also increases from 80 to 90.
Even though it seems to be a common condition we hear around, it is pretty lethal statistically. It happens to be one of the leading causes of premature death in adults. The long-term sequelae of the disease lead to multiple organ failure which is a serious scare.
Causes of Hypertension
Hypertension is caused by multiple factors and sometimes many factors co-exist making the treatment of the disease more complex. Some of the major causes are mentioned below
Altered renal function- Kidneys play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Poor kidney function can lead to increase in blood pressure. The cycle doesn't break here. High blood pressure goes back to damage the kidney further. It is a result of interrupted renin-angiotensin mechanism which plays a major role in regulating blood pressure.
Stress- When body is relaxed, parasympathetic system of our body is functioning well which keeps the blood pressure in control. When the body is under physical and emotional stress, it cannot maintain its parasympathetic tone and the sympathetic tone dominates causing increased blood pressure. This continuing increase in blood pressure damages vessel walls in the long run
Thickening of blood vessel- Blood vessels lose their compliance as a result of increased blood pressure or as a part and parcel of aging. Because of diet rich in fats, there is deposition of cholesterol on the vessel walls that narrows down the lumen of arteries increasing the pressure. So, thickening of blood vessel or high cholesterol is a major cause of fluctuating blood pressure in patients
High sodium diet- Sodium is an essential nutrient but is required in minimal quantity for the body to utilize it as per necessity. If the sodium levels soar high, it can raise blood pressure. High sodium diet can also increase water retention which is bad for heart health.
Thyroid Diseases- Thyroid maintains the body metabolism and also regulates heart function. Poor or excess production of thyroid hormones can contribute to high blood pressure.
Smoking- Nicotine and other chemicals present in cigarettes reduce the lumen in blood vessels and cause increased heart rate which eventually leads to increased blood pressure.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Dizziness- Dizziness felt frequently should not be ignored as it is one of the major symptoms of increased blood pressure. One of the signs to detect dizziness is when one feels devoid of body balance while getting up from a chair after sitting for long or abruptly getting up from bed.
Blurred vision: High blood pressure can affect the vision by increasing extra ocular pressure causing blurred or double vision. While a blurred vision might not necessarily mean fluctuating blood pressure, it is best to check with a cardiologist if it happens along with other symptoms.
Fatigue: Physical activity can raise the blood pressure in hypertensive patients. As a coping mechanism, the individual feels fatigue often.
Heart palpitations: Increased resistance in the blood vessels can alter the heart rate and eventually cause palpitations. Individual feels loud throbbing of heart even while resting.
Headache: Headache is often a disabling symptom of hypertension and is often not alleviated by pain killers. Regular headaches should be reported to doctor.
Shortness of breath: blood pressure reduces tolerance to stress and physical activity as an outcome, individuals with hypertension can experience increased breathing rate.
Treatment of Hypertension
The treatment line of Hypertension is an elaborate one and needs doctor advice at every point. It basically includes
Dietary restrictions- Low sodium and low-fat diet is recommended to keep your blood pressure in check. It aids proper blood circulation by improving vessel compliance. More nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, green vegetables and nuts should be a part of the diet of a person with hypertension.
Anti-hypertensive medications- Medications are important part of treatment in hypertension and should always be taken under supervision of a physician. These medications should not be discontinued without asking a doctor. Regular revision of the medications by cardio specialists is essential.
Regular exercise- Aerobic exercises are known to benefit people with cardiovascular diseases. Exercise not only improves blood circulation but also helps in reducing stress. Exercises should be progressed with time to increase tolerance of the body. Small activities such as stair climbing, walking, and doing household chores can also improve heart health to some extent.
Stress management/Therapy- Stress management is an integral part of treating hypertension but is often ignored. Regular counseling and education about problem solving strategies can help reduce stress in day to day life.
Avoid smoking- Smoking affects multiple systems of the body and should be left for good. Counseling and help groups can help individuals who want to quit smoking and help them adhere to their goals.
Hypertension is not a condition to be cured by its own. Moreover, self-medication or following un-scientific methods to rectify the condition can prove to be dangerous as the condition keeps worsening wit. A cardiologist is the only person you want to trust when it comes to your literal heart.
If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms or have crossed forty plus years of age, it is mandatory for you to go for regular heart checkups. And remember, prevention is always better than cure