Hypertension is simply high blood pressure. Blood, circulating though our bodies, is causing a small amount of pressure on the walls of our blood vessels, primarily arteries.
This pressure can be systolic, when heart has just released the blood into system and diastolic, which is the pressure between two systoles or the pressure in the vessels when the heart is at rest. In a healthy individual, these two values should be120 mmHg- systolic and 80 mmHg-diastolic. Hypertension means that these two values are over 140 systolic and 90-diastolic.
What is pre-hypertension?
There is another condition, which is called the pre-hypertension and which is confusing for most of the people. This means that your systolic blood pressure is between 120 and 139 and your diastolic blood pressure is between 80 and 89 mmHg.
In this case, you are not diagnosed with hypertension but you are likely to develop high blood pressure at some point in your life.
Types of hypertension
Although there is some progress evidenced in the last couple of years, hypertension remains an important public health problem that needs to be investigated in the future. When people talk about the causes of hypertension, they are mostly talking about a form of hypertension called secondary hypertension. Primary or essential hypertension is a type of hypertension, which has no known underlying cause.
Possible causes of hypertension
There are many things in a human body that control the level of the blood pressure such as the amount of blood pumped by the heart, size and condition of the arteries, condition of the kidneys, nervous system, or blood vessels and probably the most important one -the hormonal system. When some of these systems are affected, you may develop hypertension.
There are many other conditions, which are not directly connected with high blood pressure, but may eventually lead to it. Some of them are:
* kidney disorders,
* hemolytic-uremic syndrome,
* Cushing's syndrome,
* oral contraceptives,
* Wilms' tumor,
* adrenal gland tumors and many others…
Even some medications can cause high blood pressure. The biggest problem with this condition is that, in most of the cases, it produces no symptoms. Patients may develop some kind of mild headaches and ear ringing but no one really relates that to hypertension. So, this condition is rarely diagnosed in its early stage.
Many people are confused with the term “malignant hypertension” because it reminds them of a malignant disease such as carcinoma. When someone suffers from malignant hypertension, he is suffering from a late phase of the condition, which is causing several much more serious symptoms such as nosebleed, blood in urine, irregular heartbeat, vision changes, tiredness or eventually a heart failure.
Another fact is that hypertension increases with age. That is why more than one of every two adults older than 60 years of age has hypertension.
Risk factors for developing a hypertension
There are many things that are considered as risk factors for developing hypertension and some of them are:
* Age - The amount of collagen in arteries increases with age, causing the blood vessel’s to get stiff. This definitely reduces the elasticity of blood vessels and so it leads to high arterial blood pressure because the vessels are loosing their ability to compensate the heart beatings
* Tobacco smoking - Smoking increases blood cholesterol, creating small plaques in arteries. This is considered as a very important risk factor for developing this serious condition.
* Stress - Stress can affect our blood pressure significantly but the exact mechanism behind thi is still unknown. Some experts noticed that people that work under a lot of stress and pressure such as doctors, suffer from high blood pressure more often than people who have jobs that involve less stress. Stress reduction and relaxation can significantly improve your general health state as well as lower your blood pressure.
* Diet with high levels of saturated fat in it - Fats will stimulate the process called atherosclerosis which makes a man more prone to all kinds of cardio and vascular diseases
* Alcohol abuse
* Some diseases such as Diabetes mellitus and various genetic causes
* Obesity - One of the most important risk factors.
According to some researches done in the past, every extra kilogram generally will increase your blood pressure by two mmHg.
Probably the biggest problem with this condition is that very small amount of people consider this a life-threatening diseases, which it definitely is. High blood pressure increases morbidity and mortality from a
* cardio-vascular diseases,
* congestive heart failure and
* many renal diseases.
Cardiovascular diseases are the number one diseases on the mortality list in the US these past couple of years. Several statistical researches have shown that one oout of every two females in the US will probably develop some cardio vascular disease related to high blood pressure or some other cause.
Prevention of hypertension
The most important fact about this condition is that we are able to prevent it. It can be done by applying several strategies or primary prevention that targets the general population as well as the individuals at higher risk for developing high blood pressure.
What should we know about the population-based strategy? It is based on lowering down the blood pressure in the general population. It can be done through some public health approaches, such as lowering sodium content in the food and providing opportunities for exercise. There are several target populations, which are at a higher risk from developing some kind of hypertension. These are:
* Individuals with a high normal blood pressure or pre-hypertension,
* Those with a family history of hypertension,
* Over-weighted people with expressed physical inactivity
* Alcohol addicts.
Primary prevention of hypertension for individuals is based on several lifestyle and dietary modifications as well as the physical activity!
Basic life style modifications, according to the National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, are:
* Weight reduction - there is a strong relation between obesity and high blood pressure. Every kilogram you loose will probably lower down your blood pressure for at least two mmHg.
* Physical activities- it is proven that moderate aerobic exercises can lower up your blood pressure for at least four mmHg monthly! Every person should practice physical activities at least 60 minutes per week, which is not a lot.
- Several researches done in the past have proven that alcohol elevates the blood pressure significantly.
The most effective way of primary prevention of hypertension is definitely a good and effective dietary modification. There are several dietary changes that person should apply to reduce the blood pressure. Some of them are:
* Reduction in food sodium levels - It is proven that sodium raises blood pressure and, on long-term bases, can lead to hypertension. The upper limit of dietary sodium intake should not exceed 2,400 mg per day.
* Usage or potassium supplements
* Diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables is highly recommended for primary prevention of hypertension.
* It is also proven that some Calcium supplements can moderately help in lowering down a high blood pressure.
* Several studies have proven that the increased intake of fish oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
* Some herbal supplements such as Ginseng, Ginko biloba extract, Allium sativum, glucosamine, St. John’s wort, Echinacea augustifolia, lecithin, chondroitin, creatine, and serenoa repens can lower down blood pressure and that is why they are recommended for use on daily basis.
Treatment of hypertension
Patients should do something about hypertension before it is too late. If the person is already diagnosed with hypertension there are several ways to treat this terrible disease.
Medications that are being used for treatment are diuretics. These medications are made to stimulate the kidneys to work better and to make more urine. Several other medications are used for the treatment and most of them affect the heart’s ability to pump blood. Some of these medications are:
* beta-blockers and
* calcium channel blockers,
* angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors,
* angiotensin receptor blockers, or
Prevention of hypertension and kids
Hypertension begins early in life and that is why the greatest long-term potential for avoiding hypertension is to apply prevention strategies as early as possible.
That is why many experts believe that kids should probably be the first target population for hypertension prevention. Children should be familiar with all the information regarding hypertension because better understanding of physical and behavioral factors that influence blood pressure can help children to focus themselves on changing bad life style habits and this is the only real and effective primary prevention of high blood pressure,