Hyper­ten­sion: The silent killer

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - SOCIETY -

What is el­e­vated blood pres­sure?

When your heart pumps blood into your ar­ter­ies, the pres­sure of the blood against the artery walls is called your blood pres­sure.

Your blood pres­sure is given as two num­bers: sys­tolic over di­as­tolic blood pres­sure. Your sys­tolic blood pres­sure is the high­est blood pres­sure dur­ing the course of your heart beat cy­cle. Your di­as­tolic blood pres­sure is the low­est pres­sure.

Med­i­cal guide­lines de­fine hyper­ten­sion as a blood pres­sure higher than 130 over 80 as is­sued by the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion (AHA) in Novem­ber 2017.

When your blood pres­sure gets too high, it puts ex­tra stress on your heart and blood ves­sels. If your blood pres­sure stays high all the time, you will be at a higher risk for heart at­tacks, strokes, kid­ney dis­ease, and other health prob­lems.

What are the causes of hyper­ten­sion?

The ex­act causes of hyper­ten­sion are not known, but sev­eral things (risk fac­tors) may play a role, in­clud­ing:

◆ Smok­ing.

◆ Be­ing over­weight or obese.

◆ Lack of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

◆ Too much salt in the diet.

◆ Too much al­co­hol con­sump­tion (more than one to two drinks per day)

◆ Stress.

◆ Older age.

◆ Ge­net­ics.

◆ Kid­ney prob­lems In many cases, it may not be pos­si­ble to iden­tify a cause or risk fac­tor. The more risk fac­tors a per­son has, the more likely they are to even­tu­ally de­velop hyper­ten­sion.

How can one pre­vent hyper­ten­sion?

The best way to pre­vent hyper­ten­sion is to choose to live a healthy life, that is make healthy lifestyle choices. Lifestyle plays an im­por­tant role in treat­ing your high blood pres­sure.

If you suc­cess­fully con­trol your blood pres­sure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, de­lay or re­duce the need for med­i­ca­tion. The fol­low­ing lifestyle choices are im­por­tant in the pre­ven­tion and man­age­ment of hyper­ten­sion:

1. Lose weight and watch your waist­line

Blood pres­sure of­ten in­creases as weight in­creases. Be­ing over­weight can cause dis­rupted breath­ing while you sleep (sleep ap­nea), which fur­ther raises your blood pres­sure. Weight loss is one of the most ef­fec­tive lifestyle changes for con­trol­ling blood pres­sure.

Los­ing even a small amount of weight if you’re over­weight or obese can help re­duce your blood pres­sure. In gen­eral, you may re­duce your blood pres­sure by about 1 mil­lime­tre of mer­cury (mmHg) with each kilo­gramme of weight you lose. Be­sides shed­ding weight, you gen­er­ally should also keep an eye on your waist­line. Car­ry­ing too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pres­sure.

2. Ex­er­cise reg­u­larly

Reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity — such as 150 min­utes a week, or about 30 min­utes most days of the week — can lower your blood pres­sure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pres­sure.

It is im­por­tant to be con­sis­tent be­cause if you stop ex­er­cis­ing, your blood pres­sure can rise again. If you have el­e­vated blood pres­sure, ex­er­cise can help you avoid de­vel­op­ing hyper­ten­sion. If you al­ready have hyper­ten­sion, reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can bring your blood pres­sure down to safer lev­els.

3. Eat a healthy diet

Eat­ing a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, veg­eta­bles and low-fat dairy prod­ucts and skimps on sat­u­rated fat and choles­terol can lower your blood pres­sure by up to 11mmHg if you have high blood pres­sure. Avoid fast foods that are rich in sat­u­rated fat and choles­terol.

Salt is a ma­jor risk fac­tor for hyper­ten­sion, hence one must min­imise its in­take. Avoid adding salt at the ta­ble.

4. Limit the amount of al­co­hol you take

Al­co­hol can be both good and bad for your health. By drink­ing al­co­hol only in mod­er­a­tion — gen­er­ally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — you can po­ten­tially lower your blood pres­sure by about 4mmHg. But that pro­tec­tive ef­fect is lost if you drink too much al­co­hol. Drink­ing more than mod­er­ate amounts of al­co­hol can ac­tu­ally raise blood pres­sure by sev­eral points. It can also re­duce the ef­fec­tive­ness of blood pres­sure med­i­ca­tions

5. Stop smok­ing

Each cig­a­rette you smoke in­creases your blood pres­sure for many min­utes af­ter you fin­ish. Stop­ping smok­ing helps your blood pres­sure re­turn to nor­mal.

Quit­ting smok­ing can re­duce your risk of heart dis­ease and im­prove your over­all health. Peo­ple who quit smok­ing may live longer than peo­ple who never quit smok­ing

Treat­ment of hyper­ten­sion

Lifestyle ad­just­ments are the stan­dard first-line treat­ment for hyper­ten­sion. Avoid­ing stress, or de­vel­op­ing strate­gies for man­ag­ing un­avoid­able stress, can help with blood pres­sure con­trol. Peo­ple with blood pres­sure higher than 130 over 80 may use med­i­ca­tion to treat hyper­ten­sion.

A range of drug types are avail­able to help lower blood pres­sure. It is im­por­tant that treat­ment of hyper­ten­sion is care­fully mon­i­tored by your doc­tor or nurse. Se­ri­ous life-threat­en­ing com­pli­ca­tions can oc­cur if hyper­ten­sion is not ad­e­quately con­trolled, hence the need for con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing by a health­care worker.

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