Hypertension is another name for High blood pressure.
Hypertension or high blood pressure is when the pressure or force with which the blood circulates through the walls of the arteries is too high.
It is also a chronic medical disorder that occurs in adults, in which the blood pressure (BP) is higher than 140 mm Hg systolic or 90 mm Hg diastolic on three separate readings recorded several weeks apart.
Normally, to survive and function properly, your tissues and organs need the oxygenated blood that your circulatory system carries throughout the body. This is possible because when the heart beats, it creates a pressure that pushes blood through a network of blood vessels, which include arteries, veins and capillaries.
Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number represents the pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats. The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure in the vessels when the heart rests between beats.
- 1 out of every 3 adult aged over 40 in Nigeria are hypertensive.
- It is slightly more prevalent in women than in men in Nigeria.
- Essential: occurs in elderly people due to aged related hardening of the arterial walls (arteriosclerosis) and occurs gradually without any obvious symptoms.
- Non-essential: occurs in those with underlying medical conditions such as: obesity, kidney disorders, hypercholesteremia, etc.
How is Hypertension diagnosed?
The blood pressure is measured on at least 3 days, weeks or days apart, on each occasion, it is measured while the individual has been at rest for at least 10-15 minutes before each commencement of the check. When the systolic blood pressure readings on both days is ≥140 mmHg and/or the diastolic blood pressure readings on both days is ≥90 mmHg, Hypertension is diagnosed.
What are the causes of hypertension?
Hypertension has no specific causes.
Risk factors include:
Modifiable risk factors such as:
- Unhealthy diets (example: excessive salt consumption, a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats, low intake of fruits and vegetables),
- Physical inactivity and poor exercise,
- Consumption of tobacco and alcohol,
- Being obese or overweight.
Non-modifiable risk factors such as:
- A family history of or genetic predisposition to hypertension,
- Being senile or aged over 65 years,
- The existence of co-morbidities (co-existing diseases) such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes or kidney disease.
How does it happen?
The damage starts in your arteries and heart.
The primary way that high blood pressure causes harm is by increasing the workload of the heart and blood vessels making them work harder and less efficiently.
Over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries. In turn, the body attempts to heal the arterial walls and as a result, other substances like proteins, Low Density Lipoproteins (bad) cholesterol combine to form plaque along tiny tears in the artery walls, signifying the start of atherosclerosis.
The more the plaque and damage increases, the narrower or smaller the insides of the arteries become, thereby increasing blood pressure and starting a vicious circle that progressively affects your arteries, heart and the rest of your body. This can ultimately lead to other conditions ranging from Arrythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), Arterial rupture, Stroke, Transient ischemic attack (TIA), etc.
What are common Signs and Symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension is called a “silent killer”. Most people with hypertension are unaware of the problem because it may have no warning signs or symptoms. For this reason, it is essential that the blood pressure of each individual is measured regularly.
- A reading of at least 140/90mmHg on the sphygmomanometer.
- Early morning headaches,
- Irregular heart rhythms,
- Vision changes,
- Buzzing in the ears.
Severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors.
- Reducing sodium (salt) intake.
- Eating more fruit and vegetables.
- Being physically active on a regular basis.
- Avoiding tobacco (nicotine) use.
- Reduce alcohol consumption.
- Reduce the intake of foods high in fats (saturated, trans fats, etc)
- Reducing and managing mental stress
- Treating high blood pressure
- Managing other medical conditions
- Regularly checking blood pressure
- Heart attack,
- Cardiac arrest,
- Angina (chest pain).
NB: The only way to detect hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure.
Having blood pressure measured is quick and painless. Individuals can also measure their own blood pressure using automated devices, however, an evaluation by a health professional is important for assessment of risk and associated conditions.