High blood pressure (also known as hypertension). Occurs when the blood flows in the arteries under a high pressure. That means that the blood vessel walls are under extreme pressure, and could become damaged as a result.
Blood pressure is often measured in two ways:
One method involves the use of a digital blood pressure monitor. The cuff of the device is wrapped around the arm of the person, then the device automatically inflates the cuff, with sensors measuring the blood pressure. The display shows the person’s blood pressure reading.
The second method is a bit more manual, it is carried out using a sphygmomanometer and a stethoscope. The cuff of the device is wrapped around the arm of the person but manually inflated using a rubber pump. A stethoscope is then used to listen over the junction between the arm and forearm for special tapping sounds. The blood pressure is then read by the health professional by looking at the pressure scale.
Blood pressure readings usually have two numbers. They look something like this ‘XX/YY mmHg’. The first set of numbers (XX) usually depict the systolic blood pressure, that is, the pressure exerted when the heart contracts while the second set of numbers (YY) depicts the diastolic blood pressure, the pressure exerted when the heart muscles relax.
The normal blood pressure in adult Females is 110/70 mmHg. Whereas in males, it is 120/80 mmHg.
High blood pressure occurs when the blood pressure is 130/80 mmHg and above.
7 facts to help you understand high blood pressure
1. It can be hereditary
High blood pressure often runs in families. If you have a parent, grandparent or sibling that is hypertensive, your own risk of developing it goes up. This is why people with a family history of hypertension must be vigilant and regularly check their blood pressures.
2. It affects older people more
The risk of developing hypertension increases as a person grows older. It does not primarily affect people who are young, it affects older people more. So, if you are more than 40 years, you need to start checking your blood pressure routinely, every three months is fair enough.
3. It often has no symptoms
High blood pressure is sometimes referred to as a ‘silent killer’. This is because it often shows no symptoms. A person can be walking around with a relatively high blood pressure and have no idea. This is why routine blood pressure checks are essential. In fact, in many clinics, the blood pressure of every adult is checked before the person is allowed to walk into the doctor’s room to also help to identify people with this disease because they may show no symptoms.
However, sometimes it could show symptoms like:
- A severe headache
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
4. There are many risk factors for developing it
Other risk factors apart from an increasing age, and a genetic predisposition are:
- An unhealthy diet
- Tobacco smoking (including inhaling bad smoke from hookah)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Lack of physical exercise
5. It can be deadly
Even though it can be silent, it can be very deadly. Hypertension could damage the walls of blood vessels, increasing the risk that a clot could form in them. When this happens and blocks off blood supply to the brain, an ischemic stroke happens. Also, hypertension could cause weak blood vessels in the brain to rupture, leading to a haemorrhagic stroke.
It is a major culprit in raising the risk of heart attacks too.
6. People who have it may need to be on medication for life
People who are diagnosed with high blood pressure run the chance of being prescribed certain drugs called hypertensives. This treatment usually lasts forever. There are different classes of these drugs but they help to lower the blood pressure, putting it under control.
It is important for a hypertensive patient to adhere to the prescribed dosage and avoid skipping any days. A doctor should always be consulted if one is uncomfortable with the drugs or experiences side-effects.
7. You can lower your risk of coming down with it
Even if you have family members who are hypertensive, you can take certain steps to lower your chance of developing this disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Strategies you can use to lower this risk are:
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Ensure you engage in adequate physical exercise
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t drink alcohol excessively
Guest Post by Dr. Charles-Davies of 25 Doctors, an online medical consultation platform.