What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
High blood pressure, the medical term for high blood pressure, is known as “silent death.” Nearly 80 million Americans (33% of the population) suffer high blood pressure; Some 16 million people do not even know they have this disease.
What is hypertension?
Blood pressure is the necessary force for blood to circulate through arterial vessels. When this force exerted by the heart to the arteries in a sustained manner is excessive or higher than recommended, we speak of arterial hypertension (AHT).
Currently, there is a consensus among experts to define hypertension as those blood pressure figures above 140/90, although it would be desirable to be at 130/80 as the maximum limit.
Symptoms of hypertension
Most people with high blood pressure do not show signs or symptoms, even when the results of the blood pressure show levels that are so high that they are dangerous.
A few people with high blood pressure may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms are not specific and usually do not occur until high blood pressure has reached a serious or life-threatening stage.
Causes of high blood pressure
Most of the time there is no specific cause for triggering hypertension, which is why it is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension.
90-95% of hypertensive patients would be from this group. Although there is no specific cause, it is known that there are conditions that increase the likelihood of developing arterial hypertension, such as advanced age -as blood vessels become stiffer as we get older- and a family history of hypertension.
The presence of other diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity also predispose to hypertension (known as secondary hypertension), as well as if you are a person who often suffers stress or anxiety.
To measure blood pressure, the doctor or specialist usually places an inflatable cuff around your arm and measures your blood pressure with a blood pressure monitor.
The measurement of blood pressure, which is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), consists of two numbers. The first, or greater, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (systolic pressure).
The second, or smaller, measures the pressure in the arteries between the heart beats (diastolic pressure).
Blood pressure measurements fall into four general categories:
- Normal blood pressure You have normal blood pressure if it is below 120/80 mm Hg.
- High blood pressure. High blood pressure is a systolic pressure between 120 and 129 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mm Hg. The High blood pressure tends to get worse over time unless measures are taken to control it.
- The Stage 1 hypertension Stage 1 hypertension is a systolic pressure between 130 and 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension, a more severe hypertension, is a systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or greater, or a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or greater.
How does blood pressure affect the brain?
When the arteries become rigid and narrow, the blood supply is insufficient and causes the appearance of cerebral infarcts (stroke or ischemic stroke).
The elevation of blood pressure can also cause the rupture of an artery and cause a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke or hemorrhagic stroke).
How does blood pressure affect the kidneys?
Hypertension causes stiffness in the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys. But it also harms the kidney itself, which can lead to kidney failure that even requires dialysis. On the other hand, if the kidney is damaged, an increase in blood pressure can occur.
How does blood pressure affect other organs?
- If it affects the arteries of the legs, it causes pain when walking.
- If it damages the arteries of the retina it causes alterations in the vision.
- In men, it can be a cause of impotence.
Hypertension: treatment and prevention
The best treatment for hypertension is a good prevention that prevents its appearance. For this it is essential to follow a heart-healthy lifestyle:
Do not smoke. Tobacco increases blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, hypertensive smokers multiply the harmful effect of tobacco. Quitting smoking has some positive effects superior to any medication for hypertension.
Beware of alcohol. The moderate consumption of alcohol (a glass of wine a day at meals) can be beneficial, but if it is excessive causes the increase in blood pressure and other detrimental alterations to the heart and other organs.
Control your weight Being overweight is a cause of hypertension. Lowering it reduces blood pressure and decreases cardiovascular and diabetes risk.
Exercise. The performance of regular physical exercise manages to lower the blood pressure figures. In addition, it increases muscle mass and exercise capacity helps control weight and reduces cardiovascular risk.
Practice a heart-healthy diet. Hypertensives should reduce the consumption of salt and foods that contain it. It is also necessary to consume fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, bread and other cereals. Finally, use olive oil as the main fat and increase the intake of poultry and fish to the detriment of red meat.
Pharmacotherapy. If you are hypertensive you can not be satisfied with the previous recommendations, since it is possible that you should follow a pharmacological treatment.
The results do not always reflect an immediate reduction in blood pressure, so it is necessary to wait a bit before asking the doctor for a change in medication.
Antihypertensive drugs are grouped into several types:
- Inhibitors of the renin angiotensin system (ACEI).
- Angiotensin receptor antagonists (ARA-II)
- Association of drugs.
Patients who follow antihypertensive treatment should keep these tips in mind:
Even if the blood pressure has normalized, you should never stop taking the medication.
Strictly comply with the treatment and try to always maintain the schedule of intake of the pills.
Consult the doctor if the treatment does not get results since sometimes it is necessary to associate several drugs to control blood pressure. Also check the diet in case any food (for example, salt) is preventing the antihypertensive effect of the medication.
The treatment must always be compatible with the heart-healthy lifestyle.
Monitor the rest of the risk factors, because otherwise, your good blood pressure figures will not do much good.
Hypertension can affect health in four main ways:
Hardening of the arteries. The pressure inside the arteries can cause thickening of the muscles lining the arterial wall and narrowing of the arteries.
If a blood clot obstructs blood flow to the heart or brain, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Enlargement of the heart High blood pressure makes the heart work harder. Like any other muscle in the body that undergoes excessive exercise, the heart increases in size to be able to perform the additional work.
The larger the heart, the more oxygen-rich blood it will need, but the less it can maintain adequate circulation.
As a result of this situation, the affected person will feel weak and tired, and will not be able to exercise or perform physical activities. Without treatment, heart failure will continue to get worse.
Kidney damage. Prolonged high blood pressure can damage the kidneys if the blood supply to these organs is affected.
Eye damage In diabetics, hypertension can cause ruptures in the small capillaries of the retina of the eye, causing effusions. This problem is called “retinopathy” and can cause blindness.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is defined as high pressure in the arteries, that are the vessels which carry blood from the heart to the body.
What figure is too high?
According to the new guidelines published by the National Institute of Lungs, Heart, and Blood of the United States (NHLBI) in 2003, a reading below 120/80 mm Hg is now considered normal blood pressure.
Blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 (previously considered normal) is now classified into a category called “prehypertension”.
According to the NHLBI, approximately 45 million Americans would fall into this category, which means they have double the risk of high blood pressure in the future.