Did you know that high blood pressure is also known as “the silent killer?”. It is called so as it can silently harm you because most individuals with high blood pressure do not experience any symptoms and therefore it can go undetected for years. The good news is that early detection and management of hypertension can reduce your risk of developing any further complications. Read further to get a better understanding of high blood pressure and its risks.Contents:
High blood pressure also known as hypertension, is a common condition where your blood pressure (the force exerted by the blood against the walls of your blood vessels) is consistently too high. Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the resistance in the blood vessels of your heart. When the arteries of your heart become narrower (due to plaque formation, etc.), it becomes difficult for your heart to pump the same amount of blood, hence the rise in blood pressure.
Your blood pressure reading consists of 2 numbers:
Systolic Blood Pressure
Diastolic Blood Pressure
The systolic blood pressure or the top number indicates the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
The diastolic blood pressure or the bottom number indicates the pressure between the beats.
A normal blood pressure level is less than or equal to 120/80 mmHg, where 120 is the systolic blood pressure and 80 is the diastolic blood pressure.
Your blood pressure may vary throughout the day depending on your activities. When your blood pressure is constantly high over a period of time you will be diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension.
Depending on the cause of high blood pressure is divided into two: Primary hypertension and Secondary hypertension.
Primary or essential hypertension develops over years. A combination of factors play role in its development:
Those who have a family history of hypertension are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.
Older adults (>60 years) are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
Being overweight or obese is one of the risk factors of hypertension.
Chronic conditions such as diabetes or kidney disorders can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.
Following a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy food habits, and habits such as smoking or consumption of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure.
Secondary hypertension occurs spontaneously and can be more severe compared to primary or essential hypertension. It is mostly caused by an underlying health condition or certain medications. The causes may include:
Medicines like amphetamines or cocaine
Most individuals with hypertension do not experience any symptoms unless their blood pressure reaches very high levels. Some of these symptoms include:
Long-standing hypertension can cause damage to your blood vessels and organs. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the more will be the damage. Uncontrolled hypertension can cause facial flushing, dizziness, blood spots in the eyes, etc., and may lead to the following complications:
High blood pressure can eventually lead to hardening or thickening of the blood vessels due to the build-up of fat, cholesterol, or other substances in your artery walls. This causes narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Uncontrolled hypertension can cause the arteries to bulge forming a weak spot in the artery (aneurysm) that may burst if the pressure rises. An aneurysm may progressively increase in size. Rupture of an aneurysm can be life-threatening.
Your heart has to work harder to pump blood against the resistance in your blood vessels. This can lead to thickening of the walls of the heart chambers eventually leading to heart failure.
High blood pressure can cause narrowing of the blood vessels of the kidney which leads to decreased blood flow through them. This eventually results in damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys affecting their normal function.
Uncontrolled hypertension can cause damage to the small blood vessels in the eye causing problems with vision. It can lead to blurred vision or in some cases it might also cause loss of vision.
High blood pressure can cause Metabolic Syndrome in some individuals. Metabolic Syndrome is a group of conditions that occur together and has the propensity to increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. These conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased weight gain, especially around the waist, and abnormal lipid levels (cholesterol and triglyceride levels).
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can affect your ability to think and remember. It can affect your memory and cause difficulty in understanding concepts.
High blood pressure can lead to the development of dementia in some individuals. It is a condition that causes memory loss and loss of cognitive function. It occurs due to the damage of the blood vessels that supply your brain.
Detecting and managing high blood pressure early can help in preventing these complications.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is a strong shield against hypertension and its damaging effects. Taking these small steps can help prevent high blood pressure and keep it under control.
As high blood pressure generally does not show any symptoms, it is necessary that individuals who are at a higher risk should undergo periodic screenings.
Annual screenings are recommended for:
Adults aged between 18 to 39 years, with a healthy blood pressure and who do not fall into the high-risk category can undergo screenings once every 2 to 3 years.
Those who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure will require regular monitoring of their blood pressure and frequent consultations with their doctor as recommended.
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