Hypertension: What it means

Updated: Sep 23, 2010, 11:14 AM IST

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated.

normal fluid in narrow, stiff, or clogged blood vessels. Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the walls of the blood vessels. Extra fluid in the body increases the amount of fluid in blood vessels and makes blood pressure higher.

Narrow, stiff, or clogged blood vessels also raise blood pressure. Persistent hypertension is one of the risk factors for strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and arterial aneurysm, and is a leading cause of chronic kidney failure.

It is surprising to know that Hypertension is the second major cause, after diabetes, of end stage renal diseases or kidney failure and is responsible for 25-30% of all reported cases.

When you should check for Hypertension?

Most people with primary hypertension don`t have any obvious symptoms at all; also the possible symptoms of hypertension vary quite a lot from person to person. Common symptoms of hypertension are:

Chronic headaches, Dizziness or Vertigo, Blurry or double vision, drowsiness, nausea, Shortness of breath. Usually when this occurs people start to get a little concerned. This is a high time when one should check a doctor as by this time the blood pressure levels reaches an alarming stage. If untreated the conditions progress and in extreme cases a person experience, heart palpitations, fatigue - general tiredness, a flushed face, Nosebleeds, a strong need to urinate often (especially during the night),Tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing in the ears)

What are the common causes of hypertension?

  • Smoking
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of physical activity
  • High levels of salt intake (sodium sensitivity)
  • calcium, potassium, and magnesium consumption
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • High levels of alcohol consumption
  • Stress
  • Aging
  • Medicines such as birth control pills
  • Genetics and a family history of hypertension
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid problems or tumors

    How Hypertension is diagnosed?

  • Regular blood pressure checking: Blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff and recorded as two numbers, for example, 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury).
  • The upper measurement is called the systolic pressure and the lower one is called the diastolic pressure.
  • Normal blood pressure is: Pre-hypertension range is: 120-139/80-89
  • High blood pressure (stage 1): 140-159/90-99
  • High blood pressure (stage 2): > 160/100
  • Patient history to collect including symptoms like chest pain
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Medical history of co-morbid conditions like diabetes
  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests (as indicated)
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart

    How to treat Hypertension?

    All patients with blood pressure readings greater than 120/80 should be encouraged to make lifestyle modifications, such as eating a healthier diet, including the DASH diet (eating more fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products, less saturated and total fat). Reducing the amount of sodium in the diet to 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon of salt) a day or less. Quitting smoking, and getting more exercise. Taking the requisite medicines like Diuretics, Beta-blockers to name a few.

    What are the Preventive Care for hypertension?

  • Maintaining a proper weight
  • Reducing salt intake
  • Increasing physical activity - According to some studies, men who lead physically active lives can reduce their risk of developing hypertension by 35 - 70 %. Regular exercise also helps keep your weight in check. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise -- such as walking - every day.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption - If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to one drink per day if you are a woman and two if you are a man.
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

    By Dhruv Chaturvedi
    (The author is the General Manager of Fresenius Medical Care in India)