✦ Overview

Hypertension or High blood pressure is a common health condition wherein the blood vessels become stiffer thereby increasing the pressure in these arteries. It is essential to take precautionary steps at an early stage. The longer the blood pressure remains high, the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and other health problems increases proportionately. High blood pressure is mostly asymptomatic and hence often referred to as the “silent killer”. Understanding hypertension – its causes, symptoms, prevention and treatment options can prove essential in keeping ourselves healthy.

✦ What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure (HBP) is a medical condition where the pressure of the blood in your arteries is higher than accepted normal ranges. The standard dictom of 120/80 mmHg still holds true but there are variations for us to consider. The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) defines HBP as BP greater than 140/90 mmHg and “high normal” as between 130-139 mmHg systolic and 80-90 mmHg diastolic. However, optimal blood pressure may vary depending on age and other factors, so it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the intervention strategy.

✦ Types of High Blood Pressure

There are 2 main types of high blood pressure mentioned as follows:

➔ Essential Hypertension: Also known as primary hypertension which develops over time due to hardening of the arteries and is mostly a lifestyle and age related disease.

➔ Secondary Hypertension: It is hypertension which is caused by a different primary pathology i.e. kidney / hormonal / heart problems.

✦ Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Normally hypertension is asymptomatic. However, it can be associated with some of these common symptoms.

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Headache
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Vision problems
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Nosebleeds

✦ Causes and Risk factors of High Blood Pressure

There are a number of associations of high blood pressure, including age, lifestyle and hereditary factors. They include:

  • Excessive Alcohol consumption
  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Overweight/Obesity
  • Excessive Salt usage
  • Kidney disease
  • Tumours
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking

✦ How to diagnose high blood pressure?

The diagnosis of Hypertension is usually made by measuring blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer. Blood pressure can be checked in clinic / OPD setting known as Office BP, at home with the help of electronic BP monitors or through ambulatory blood pressure monitoring to diagnose and or monitor treatment. Health experts may also take a complete medical history, and perform a physical examination to assess the overall risk.

  • Blood tests to check for underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or kidney disease.
  • ECG electrocardiogram to check for any signs of heart disease or damage
  • Echocardiogram to check for any abnormalities in the heart’s structure or function.
  • Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring to diagnose or monitor treatment.
  • Stress tests to check how your heart responds to physical activity or stress if necessary.
  • Urine tests to check for the presence of protein or other signs of kidney damage.

✦ Urine tests to check for the presence of protein or other signs of kidney damage.

Blood pressure treatment involves multimodality approach and different lines of treatment can be complimentary to each other.

➔ Lifestyle Changes: This includes reducing salt intake, limiting processed food, increasing physical activity, losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing / stopping alcohol consumption.

➔ Medications: Different medications are effective in the treatment of Hypertension and there are clear guidelines from the leading Cardiac Societies (European and American) to guide Doctors. Your Doctor will prescribe these medications bearing in mind your individual circumstances.

➔ Blood Pressure Monitoring: Keeping track of blood pressure on a regular basis is advisable.

➔ Stress Reduction Techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure.

➔ Secondary Hypertension: Treatment of the primary problem usually results in cure of hypertension.

➔ Dotor Follow Up: Follow up with your doctor is important to detect any problems that may arise from high blood pressure.

➔ Self Medication: Self medication and poor medicine compliance will negatively affect the overall prognosis.