High Blood Pressure – The Silent Killer : Meaning, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Blood Pressure by Perfect Health Magazine

Blood Pressure - Meaning & Overview:

Blood pressure is a measure of force that your heart uses to pump blood through your body. Hypertension or high blood pressure is a medical condition where the blood is pumped with higher force and is continually met by strong resistance from the arteries. 

According to the World Health Organisation 1.28 billion adults in age group of 30-79 years suffer from high blood pressure. 

To simplify what blood pressure means, imagine that your blood vessels are just like the plumbing in your house i.e a network of pipes carrying the water from the water storage to various outlets in the house. There is a certain pressure that is required for the water to flow through the pipes, and reach the sink. In case the water is flowing at a very high pressure, or if the pipes are narrowing due to dirt or clogging in some places, naturally, the high pressure will damage the faucets and pipes.

Similarly, blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmhg). As a general guide, normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mmhg. High blood pressure or hypertension will damage the body.

Diagnosis of High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is measured using the Blood Pressure Monitor – a device with sensors wrapped around one’s arm, where it measures the pressure of blood beating against the walls of the arteries. 

The BP reading is presented via two numbers

  1. The Systolic Pressure: The systolic pressure is the force in the arteries when the heart beats.
  2.  The Diastolic Pressure: The diastolic pressure is the force in the arteries when the heart rests between two beats.

The normal blood pressure in healthy adults is 120/80. The pressure may rise or fall depending upon the changes in activity and emotional state of the person.

As per the US National Institute of Health, the ranges for blood pressure are as follows:

Different Types Of Blood Pressure

High Blood pressure or hypertension are of two types:

  1. Essential or Primary Hypertension – This is a more common type of hypertension which develops slowly over time due to a variety of factors listed in the Causes of High Blood Pressure section. 
  2. Secondary Hypertension – This type of high blood pressure occurs suddenly and has the potential to become more serious than primary hypertension. 

High Blood Pressure or Hypertension is generally known to be a silent condition. It is known to be ‘A Silent Killer’ – approximately 46% people who suffer from high blood pressure are unaware of their condition according to the World Health Organisation.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Some of the symptoms of having blood pressure may include the following:

  1. Blurry Vision
  2. Blood spots in eyes (Subconjunctival hemorrhage)
  3. Dizziness
  4. Family history of heart disease

In severe cases, there can be nose-bleeds or headaches.

When To See A Doctor?

In case you notice any of the above symptoms or feel a shortness of breath, unexplained nausea, excessive sweating or headaches, then please get in touch with your doctor immediately. 

Perfect Health Magazine urges you to take prompt action when you notice high blood pressure symptoms.

Causes Of High Blood Pressure

Causes of high blood pressure vary according to the type of high blood pressure.  The reasons that cause primary hypertension are different from those that cause secondary hypertension. 

 The causes for Primary Hypertension or high blood pressure are:

  1. Obesity – One of the most common causes of blood pressure is living with obesity. It can also cause heart disease and cholesterol imbalance.
  2. Diabetes – Another amongst the causes is Diabetes. Diabetes can also be a lifestyle disorder or genetic, amongst other unknown causes. It can be a cause for blood pressure.
  3. Sedentary lifestyle – Since there is less or no physical activity, it can lead to various ailments including blood pressure.
  4. High Alcohol consumption – Women – more than 1 drink per day, and men – more than 2 drinks per day, have been linked to be at increased risk of having blood pressure or hypertension.
  5. High sodium intake – Risk of having blood pressure issues is associated with more than 1.5g per day consumption of sodium (salt)
  6. Smoking – Smoking is linked to be a cause for hypertension or blood pressure.
  7. Genes – A certain number of people are predisposed to having blood pressure issues due to genetic history.

Secondary Hypertension causes are as follows:

  1. Kidney Disease
  2. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  3. Congenital heart defects
  4. Thyroid
  5. Side effects of medications
  6. Use of illegal drugs
  7. Excessive consumption of alcohol
  8. Issues with the adrenal gland
  9. Tumors

If left untreated, blood pressure or hypertension can lead to serious problems, such as heart attack or stroke. The treatments that will be prescribed will be based on the type of hypertension.

Risks And Complications Associated With High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can have a lot of adverse effects on the body. It increases the risk of heart disease or a stroke. Typically blood pressure increases with age. Risk of blood pressure or Hypertension, increases post the age of 45. However, it can affect younger people too.

Treatments For High Blood Pressure Or Hypertension

Hypertension is categorized as a chronic medical condition that needs lifelong management and care. The treatments for high blood pressure are not limited to medications but also include a vast spectrum of proactive steps that the patient can take to control this condition. 

Following are some of the steps that can help you in controlling your high blood pressure over a long span of time along with medications: 

  1. Lifestyle changes – A healthcare professional will study and understand your current lifestyle and suggest some changes, which may include altering your dietary habits, adding of physical activity, and stress management techniques like Yoga, meditation, to manage the symptoms and underlying cause for blood pressure.
  2. Quit Smoking and limiting Alcohol intake also plays an effective role in reducing blood pressure.
  3. Beta Blockers – These medicines prescribed by a doctor, will make your heart beat slower and with less force, which in turn reduces the blood pumped by the heart, into your arteries. This will reduce the overall blood pressure.
  4. Diuretics – Also popularly known as ‘water pills’, these help your kidneys flush out the excess sodium in your body. As the sodium is flushed out, the extra fluid in your bloodstream will pass into the urine, which helps lower the blood pressure.
  5. ACE Inhibitors – Angiotensin Converting Enzyme is a chemical that causes the arteries to tighten and narrow. The ACE inhibitors prevent the body from producing such a chemical. This helps the blood vessels relax and not tighten and thus reduces the blood pressure.
  6. ARBs – While the ACE Inhibitors prevent the body from producing such a chemical, the ARBs (Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers) stop the Angiotensin from binding with the receptors. Thus, they too help the blood vessels relax and not tighten, and in turn reduces the blood pressure.
  7. Calcium channel blockers – This prevents some of the calcium from entering the cardiac muscles, and causes the heart to beat less forcefully, and in turn, reduce blood pressure.
  8. Alpha-2 agonists – This medication changes the nerve impulses that cause the blood vessels to tighten. This lets the blood vessels relax and reduces blood pressure.

Conclusion

With lifestyle changes, adding physical exercise, and maintaining weight in a healthy range, you can manage blood pressure or hypertension. In severe cases, medication or supplementation can reduce the overall risk of blood pressure.