With the world becoming more and more stressful with each passing day, the instances of people being diagnosed with hypertension have increased significantly. Though it is a very commonly occurring disease now, its impact on our bodies is very severe. It’s the need of the hour to spread more awareness about this “silent killer” of a disease so that appropriate steps can be taken to prevent it from getting worse.
A: Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a chronic medical condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is consistently elevated above the normal range. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries, and it is measured using two values: systolic pressure (the pressure when the heart beats) and diastolic pressure (the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats). Hypertension is a significant public health concern in India.
A: The exact cause of hypertension is unknown in many cases, but several risk factors can contribute to its development, some of which include:
A: Hypertension is a chronic condition that can have serious adverse effects on various organs and systems in the body if not treated on time or left untreated. This includes;
One of the most significant adverse effects of untreated hypertension is an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. High blood pressure can cause damage to the arteries, making them narrow and hard, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also weaken the heart muscle, leading to heart failure.
Untreated hypertension can also have adverse effects on the kidneys. The increased pressure in the blood vessels can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, reducing their ability to filter waste products from the blood. This can lead to kidney damage and, in severe cases, kidney failure.
Untreated hypertension can also damage the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to various eye conditions such as retinopathy, which can cause vision loss.
Untreated hypertension can also have adverse effects on cognitive function, including memory, attention, and executive function, and in the long run, can increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Untreated hypertension can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy, such as premature delivery, low birth weight, etc.
Untreated hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels in the legs and feet, leading to peripheral artery disease. This condition can cause pain, numbness, and difficulty walking.
Untreated hypertension can also increase the risk of aneurysms, which are bulges that form in weakened blood vessels. Aneurysms can be life-threatening if they rupture.
A: Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” as it may not present any symptoms until it has caused significant damage to the organs. Some symptoms of hypertension to keep an eye out for, include:
Headaches are a common symptom of hypertension. However, not all headaches are caused by high blood pressure, and many people with hypertension may not experience headaches at all. Headaches due to hypertension are typically described as throbbing and occur at the back of the head.
Fatigue and weakness are also common symptoms of hypertension. People with high blood pressure may feel tired and lethargic even after getting enough rest. This can be due to the extra strain placed on the heart and blood vessels, which can make the body work harder than usual.
Hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to vision problems. Blurred vision, double vision, and even loss of vision can occur in people with untreated hypertension.
Chest pain or discomfort is a symptom of hypertension that is often overlooked. This can occur due to the extra strain on the heart, which can lead to angina (chest pain) or even a heart attack in severe cases.
Shortness of breath is another symptom of hypertension. It can occur due to fluid buildup in the lungs caused by increased pressure on the blood vessels. This can make it difficult to breathe, especially during physical activity.
Nosebleeds are a common symptom of hypertension, especially in people with severe hypertension. This occurs due to the increased pressure on the blood vessels in the nose, which can cause them to rupture.
Dizziness and nausea can occur in people with hypertension due to the reduced blood flow to the brain. This can make it difficult to maintain balance and can cause a feeling of lightheadedness.
Hypertension can cause an irregular heartbeat or palpitations. This occurs due to the extra strain placed on the heart, which can cause it to beat faster or irregularly.
A: Hypertension is a serious condition that can lead to several health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. The first step in diagnosing hypertension is to measure the blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured using a device called a sphygmomanometer, which consists of a cuff, a pressure bulb, and a gauge. The blood pressure measurement is taken by placing the cuff around the upper arm and inflating it to a pressure that temporarily stops the flow of blood in the artery. The pressure is then gradually released, and the gauge measures the pressure of the blood flow. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and two readings are taken at least one minute apart.
Once the blood pressure is measured, it is classified into different categories based on the readings. In India, the following categories are used to classify blood pressure:
Sometimes, a doctor may recommend ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) to diagnose hypertension. ABPM is a method of measuring blood pressure over a 24-hour period. A portable device is attached to the arm, and blood pressure readings are taken at regular intervals, usually every 30 minutes during the day and every hour during the night. ABPM can help to diagnose hypertension in people who have white coat hypertension or masked hypertension, which are conditions where the blood pressure is normal in the doctor’s office but high outside of the office or vice versa.
Home blood pressure monitoring (HBPM) is another method of measuring blood pressure that can be used to diagnose hypertension. HBPM involves measuring blood pressure at home using a home blood pressure monitor. The readings are recorded and shared with the doctor to diagnose and manage hypertension.
A: Several treatment options are available to manage hypertension, some of which include:
One of the first lines of treatment for hypertension is lifestyle modification. This includes:
Sometimes, lifestyle modifications alone may not be enough to control hypertension, and medications may be prescribed. Several classes of medications are available to treat hypertension in India, including:
A: There are several steps that individuals can take to prevent themselves from developing hypertension, some of which include:
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important ways to prevent hypertension. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of hypertension, and losing weight can help to lower blood pressure. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help individuals to maintain a healthy weight.
Eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium, high in fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated and trans fats can help to prevent hypertension. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, has been shown to be effective in preventing hypertension.
Exercises, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, can help to prevent hypertension when done regularly. Exercise can help to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of hypertension.
Reducing sodium intake is an important step in preventing hypertension. Consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure. The Indian Council of Medical Research recommends a maximum daily intake of 5 grams of salt (2 grams of sodium) for adults.
Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure and increase the risk of hypertension. Limiting alcohol consumption to moderate levels can help to prevent hypertension.
Getting the appropriate medical treatment and care is crucial to avoid any associated medical complications.
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