Hypertension (HTN) is a major public health problem as it is highly prevalent all around the globe and also it is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and other complications. Individuals having abnormally high arterial blood pressure are said to have high blood pressure. Another definition states HTN is systolic BP level of ≥140 mmHg and/ or diastolic BP level ≥ 90mmHg. The grey area falls between 120-139 mmHg systolic BP and 80-89 mmHg diastolic BP which is defined as “prehypertension”.
Majority of patients with hypertension remain asymptomatic, some people with HTN report headaches, light-headedness, vertigo, altered vision, or a fainting episode.
Classification of Hypertension
Hypertension can be classified as either primary i.e. essential or secondary.
Over 90% of all the cases of hypertension are mainly primary hypertension with no obvious identifiable causes, although there might be recognizable risk factors. However, the exact cause of primary hypertension is not known there are several risk factors that might be associated with the condition. These risk factors might be associated with other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancers, CVD, chronic respiratory disease, asthma, musculoskeletal disorders
The remaining 10% cases are usually secondary hypertension that results from other diseases such as kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, adrenal gland tumors, thyroid problems, obstructive sleep apnea, certain birth defects or congenital in blood vessels, certain medications such as birth control pills, cold remedies, over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants, and some prescription drugs, and illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.
Factors that Increases the Risk of Hypertension
There are several factors predisposing to hypertension. However, these factors not only vary from country to country but also there are differences between urban and rural regions. The risk factors of hypertension can be further categorized into modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. The non-modifiable risk factors are characteristics or attributes within the individual that is not changed or adjusted hence these are out of control and little or nothing can be done in order to control them. These factors include age, sex, race, family history, genetic composition, etc. On the other hand, the modifiable risk factors are characteristics, exposure or lifestyle patterns that can be adjusted or changed in order to prevent the development of the disease. These risk factors include obesity, excessive salt intake, inactivity or lack of exercise, high fat diet, tobacco and alcohol consumption, etc.
A recent study conducted on an urban population of Varanasi. The authors reported that higher odds of being hypertensive were found in male subjects, people from eldest age group (55-64 years), married subjects, illiterate subjects, subjects from upper socioeconomic status, and retired subjects. Other factors associated with hypertension included tobacco and alcohol consumption, overweight, obesity, especially abdominal obesity.
Let us look at risk factors that increase the risk of hypertension in detail.
Age: The risk of hypertension or high blood pressure increases with age. Until about age 64, hypertension is common among men whereas women are more likely to develop hypertension after the age of 65.
Race: With respect to rage, hypertension is common among African heritage than white people. Other serious complications such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure are also more common in people from African heritage.
Family History: It is one of the primary causes of hypertension and it tends to run in families.
Being Overweight or Obese: Obesity is one of the major risk factors for hypertension. The more you weight more blood is needed to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases so does the pressure on your artery walls, hence obese people are vulnerable to high blood pressure and related complications.
Physically Inactive Individual: People who are not active and does not exercise tend to have higher heart rates. The higher the heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases your risk of becoming overweight and other related complications.
Smoking and Tobacco Consumption: It is well known that smoking and chewing tobacco is injurious to health. Smoking and chewing tobacco increase your blood pressure immediately after consumption. Other than that the chemicals in tobacco are also responsible for damaging the lining of your artery walls. This can result in narrowing down of your arteries and thus increasing the risk of heart disease. Passive smoking or second-hand smoking also can increase the risk of heart disease.
Increased Salt Intake: If you consume too much salt in your diet you tend to increase the risk of fluid retention in your body which results in an increase in blood pressure.
Too Little Potassium in Diet: Potassium is an important mineral useful in balancing the amount of of-of sodium in your cells. If you do not get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you might accumulate too much sodium in your blood and hence might increase the risk of hypertension.
Alcohol Consumption: Drinking too much alcohol is responsible for heart damage. Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men might affect your blood pressure.
Stress: Increased stress also is responsible for a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you relax by overeating, tobacco or alcohol consumption, you might further increase your risk of developing high blood pressure.
Certain Chronic Conditions: These are also factors that might increase your risk of high blood pressure. These conditions include kidney disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and other conditions.
Changing in your lifestyle can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure. These includes:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet: Increase intake of fruits, vegetable, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy foods. Get plenty of potassium, which is useful in preventing and controlling high blood pressure. Eat less saturated and trans fats.
- Decrease salt intake: You should aim to limit the sodium to less than 2300 mg a day or less. You should limit the salt intake by paying attention to the amount of salt in processed foods, canned soups, or frozen dinners.
- Regularly exercise and physical activity: This will help in lowering blood pressure, manage stress, reduce the risk of several health problems and keep your weight under control.
- Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you are overweight or obese: This will also help you to control high blood pressure and lower the risk of other related health problems.
- Limit alcohol consumption: You should limit your intake of alcohol as it might increase your blood pressure.
- Avoid Smoking: Tobacco can injure blood vessel walls and speed up the process of the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
- Manage Stress: You should reduce your stress by practicing healthy coping techniques such as muscle relaxation, deep breathing or meditation.
- Monitor blood pressure at home: Monitoring blood pressure at home can help you to keep closer tabs on your blood pressure. However, home blood pressure monitoring is not a substitute for a visit to your doctor.
Further, lifestyle changes are not enough and your doctor might recommend some medications to lower your blood pressure.
Stay Fit, Healthy, and Happy!!!