Hypertension is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated; higher than 140 over 90 mmHg (millimetres of mercury). This is when the reading is done with a Sphygmomanometer or blood pressure gauge. Hypertension is a deadly disease. It is deadly because by itself it mostly does not show any symptoms until it is too late in the long term. Thankfully, if it is diagnosed early, it is very treatable. There are factors responsible for Hypertension. These factors include:
Factors Responsible for High Blood Pressure
- Age: Everyone is at greater risk of high blood pressure as they get older. Prevalence of hypertension is higher in people over sixty years of age.
- Size: Being overweight (Body Mass Index 25 – 30) or obese (BMI > 30) is a key risk factor.
- Race:People of African descent which we proudly are, are at higher risk than Caucasians. No one really understands why this is so but it has been proven in various studies.
- Sex:Men and women have different risk profiles. While we have the same lifetime risks, men are more prone at younger ages while women are more prone at older ages. My male cousin was diagnosed at 27 with extremely high blood pressure during a random check-up. It is a single example but it follows the rule at least for those I know.
- Lifestyle:This is the major culprit in the risk factor for hypertension. Greater intake of salt (most things that add taste to food is salt: like Maggi, Royco, Onga and the likes), excessive alcohol and tobacco use, low potassium in diet and physical inactivity all contribute to hypertension.
- Family History:If members of your family especially your parents have been diagnosed with hypertension, there is a chance you are at risk.
- Stress:Most especially chronic stress. Over-drinking, being tense, not sleeping enough, physical exhaustion can lead to hypertension.Long term untreated hypertension can lead to serious complications such as:
- Heart Failure: It can lead to an enlarged or weakened heart that can not pump blood adequately.
- Aneurysm: This is an abnormal bulge in the wall of an artery and can rupture which leads to hemorrhage (bleeding) and is a cause of sudden death.
- Blood Vessel Narrowing:This can happen in the Kidney, Heart, Brain and Legs which can lead to Kidney failure, heart attack, stroke or amputation.
- Blood vessels in the eyes may rupture or bleed leading to vision problems or blindness.
I know I have painted a gory picture but hypertension can be treated and managed once there is prompt diagnosis and lifestyle changes. Hypertension can be treated with medication, the doctor will determine which one will best suit your needs. Most times, drugs are only used when the blood pressure is really high. Self medication is a complete no no. Talk to your doctor and have regular check-ups. Major lifestyle changes in diet and lifestyle has been proven to completely manage and even reverse high blood pressure/hypertension in some cases. They are:
- Salt Restriction: Typical salt intake for most people is between 9 and 12 grams a day. For hypertensive patients, this should be reduced to about 5 grams a day.
- Moderation of Alcohol consumption: or total eradication if you ask me. Your wellness is paramount so the sacrifice is justified. This also goes for Tobacco use.
- High consumption of fruits and vegetables, Banana and Plantain are very vital because they are high in potassium which is great for heart health. It is also advised to incorporate fish into the diet of an hypertensive person, they are rich in Omega oils also great for heart health.
- Weight loss and maintaining it: Hypertension is closely correlated with excess body weight and weight reduction is followed by a drop in blood pressure.
- Regular Physical Exercise: Hypertensive patients should participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate dynamic aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, cycling or swimming at least five times a week.
Everyone should have a regular blood pressure check done at least every 3 months to determine the state of things and let us all endeavor to live a healthy lifestyle.
Have a great week.