Hypertension: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

High blood pressure (HBP) or Hypertension (HT or HTN) is a common long-term health condition. In this condition, there is a repeated elevated blood pressure. The blood pressure is regulated by the volume of blood that the heart pumps called as cardiac output and the total of resistance that the heart has to overcome to flow the blood in the arteries called as peripheral resistance.

Every time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries, which is called as systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest between the beats, it is called as diastolic pressure. Hypertension is considered when the systolic pressure exceeds 140 or a diastolic pressure increases above 90.

A blood pressure reading of 119/79 is considered a normal blood pressure and a blood pressure reading between 120 to 139 for the top and 80 to 89 for the bottom is called prehypertension. Prehypertension normally means there is a higher chance of ending up with high blood pressure if proper measures are not taken for prevention.

Symptoms of Hypertension Symptoms / High Blood Pressure:

Hypertension is considered as ‘silent’ condition and you can have hypertension for years with any symptoms. However, even without symptoms, the damage to the heart and the blood vessels continues. Over 95% of the people don’t get any symptoms even with the dangerously high level of blood pressure.

The best way to find whether or not you have hypertension is to have regular blood pressure checked. Some people might show some signs or symptoms with high blood pressure including headaches, nosebleed, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Nevertheless, these symptoms aren’t very specific and usually occur when the blood pressure has become dangerously elevated.

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Causes of Hypertension Causes / High Blood Pressure:

There are majorly two types of hypertension:

Primary or essential hypertension

In the case of primary or essential high blood pressure, the causes are generally not known and hypertension tends to develop slowly over several years. Even though there are no identifiable causes, several risk factors can raise the risk of developing hypertension. These risk factors can be further divided into controllable and uncontrollable risks.

Uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • Genetic
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Family history

Controllable risk factors include:

A large amount of salt in food or bad food habits

  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Regular Alcohol consumption (in large amounts)
  • Long-term sleep deprivation

Secondary hypertension

When the high blood pressure appears because of a certain underlying condition, it is called as secondary hypertension. This type of blood pressure can cause higher pressure than primary or essential hypertension. There are a variety of conditions that can lead to secondary high blood pressure , including:

  • Kidney issues
  • Thyroid problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Certain congenital birth defects
  • Some medications, like over-the-counter painkillers, birth control pills, cold remedies, and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines

Resistant Hypertension

Resistant hypertension is a condition where high blood pressure is difficult to control even with several medications. If hypertension doesn’t get under control despite the prescription of three or more medication, it is deemed as resistant hypertension. Since the blood pressure is difficult to control, there is a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. The research is underway to develop a treatment for resistant hypertension.

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Risk factors of Hypertension Risk factors / High Blood Pressure:

Hypertension has several risk factors, including:

  • Age – As we age, the blood vessels lose some of its elastic quality that can contribute in elevation of blood pressure. Therefore, the risk of high blood pressure is more when you are older (above 60). However, it should also be noted that in some cases children too can develop high blood pressure
  • Race – Race is another important factor when it comes to hypertension. Some people from certain ethnic heritage are higher at risk when it comes to high blood pressure. African-Americans have higher risk factors as compared to other racial or ethnic groups like Asians, white or Hispanic races.
  • Gender – As per the research, before the age of 55, men tend to be more susceptible to develop high blood pressure. On the contrary, after the age of 55, women are more prone to high blood pressure.
  • Family history - Family history plays an important role in this disease, as hypertension tends to run in families.
  • Sedentary lifestyle - People with inactive lifestyle tend to have higher heart rates. With a higher heart rate, the heart must work harder too and there is a stronger force on arteries.
  • Obesity – The more the weight, the more blood is required to supply the oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. With the increase in the volume of blood circulated through the blood vessels, the pressure on the artery walls also increases.
  • Smoking or using tobacco – The chemicals in the tobacco can injure the lining of the artery walls causing the arteries to get narrower thus increasing the risk of heart diseases. Smoking and chewing tobacco also tend to temporarily increase the blood pressure.
  • Too much salt in the diet - Taking too much salt (laden with sodium) tend to make the body retain fluid that can increase the blood pressure.
  • Too little potassium in your diet – Potassium is important for the body as it can help regulate the sodium in the cells. If the potassium is less, your body tends to accumulate the sodium. Some of the foods that can supplement you with potassium are spinach, sweet potato, coconut water, avocado, salmon and yogurt.
  • Drinking too much alcohol – the Heavy drinking of alcohol is not good for the heart and can affect the blood pressure acutely.
  • Chronic conditions – Some chronic conditions may also affect the heart, increasing the risk of hypertension like kidney disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and such.
  • Stress - Stress is one of the prime factors attributed to being a risk for high blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy – Although, not in every case, but in a significant number of cases, pregnancy can contribute to hypertension.

Hypertension Complications / High Blood Pressure Complications:

High blood pressure can create tremendous pressure on the artery walls that can damage the blood vessels as well as affect other organs of the body. Higher blood pressure simply means higher damage. Here are some of the complications caused by hypertension.

  • Stroke or heart attack – Because of high blood pressure, the arteries can harden and thicken which is called as atherosclerosis. This thickening can lead to stroke, heart attack or any other heart complications.
  • Heart Failure – Due to high blood pressure, the heart has to work harder to pump blood that may result in thickening of the heart’s pumping chamber (left ventricular hypertrophy). The thickened muscle then is unable to pump enough blood that meets the body’s needs, leading to heart failure.
  • An aneurysm - an Aneurysm refers to the weakening of blood vessels that weakens or gets distended. Mostly aneurysm doesn’t show any symptoms however if it ruptures, it can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding.
  • Metabolic syndrome – It is a cluster of metabolic risk conditions that come together and can lead to heart disease and diabetes.
  • Weakened blood vessels in kidneys – For the proper functioning of kidneys, it is important for the blood flow to be intact. High blood pressure weakens the blood vessels all over the body and this reduction or interruption of the blood flow can cause kidney issues.
  • Torn blood vessels in the eyes – Because of high blood pressure, there could be vision loss.
  • The trouble with memory and information processing – High blood pressure could affect a person’s ability to remember and think.
  • Dementia – The weakened arteries could constraint blood flow to the brain, which might lead to vascular dementia.

Common Myths About Hypertension / High Blood Pressure:

Myth #1: If I had hypertension, I would feel something.

Fact- Hypertension is called as a ‘silent disease’ as most people who have hypertension don’t feel anything. This is an asymptomatic disease.

Myth #2: Hypertension is not a big deal

Fact- Since it is mostly related to lifestyle disease, people think it is not a big deal. High blood pressure is a dangerous disease and can cause numerous damage to the heart and other organs if not controlled.

Myth #3: Hypertension cannot be prevented

Fact- High blood pressure is a very preventable disease. Eating right, keeping fit, active, and removing alcohol and tobacco intake can really help in preventing the disease.

Myth #4: Drinking wine is good for your heart

Fact- There is no definitive research that proves that wine is good for the heart. However, it is also true that drinking alcohol tends to relax people, which might temporarily lower the blood pressure. Although wine only helps when taken in moderation and doesn’t help in chronic hypertension.

Myth #5: If you don’t add extra salt to your food, you don’t have to worry about sodium intake

Fact- Most of the salt that we get from comes from processed food. Foods like butter, cheese, tomato sauce, and baked stuff are loaded with salt and in order to regulate the sodium intake, we need to check all the items before consumption.

Myth #6: If you have high blood pressure, you get easily agitated and angry

Fact- This is not true as anger or stress is not a symptom but a cause of high blood pressure. If you get angry easily, you might elevate your blood pressure not the other way around.

Myth #7: You can stop taking the medicines after your blood pressure has come down

Fact- Hypertension is sadly a life-long disease and you will have to take medications along with eating healthy and keeping fit. Medications can only control your hypertension and not cure it.

Myth#8: High blood pressure runs in my family. It is inevitable for me to have hypertension.

Fact- Although high blood pressure may run in the family and it is possible to develop hypertension as a result of genetics, but changes in the daily lifestyle and environment can help in averting the onset of the condition.

Myth#9: Using sea salt or kosher salt instead of table salt can help in averting the symptoms relating to hypertension. This is because they have low sodium content.

Fact- Table salt comprises of chloride and sodium. The amount of sodium present in the composition of salt is about 40 percent. Sea salt and kosher salt are other variants of salt having roughly the same amount of sodium content. Thus, consuming any variant of salt contributes towards high blood pressure and should be consumed in moderation.

Myth#10: I will show evident symptoms if I have hypertension.

Fact- Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition which is very difficult to identify. Many patients with high blood pressure do not show or experience any symptoms directing towards the condition. It must be noted that hypertension is a very serious condition and if left untreated, it may lead to very serious complications. In case any person feels any symptoms remotely pointing toward hypertension, he/she must consult a doctor immediately.

Myth#11: I have been diagnosed with hypertension. I get regular checkups done by my doctor and he keeps a record of my condition.

Fact- Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition that can fluctuate in intensity due to many external as well as internal reasons. Thus, getting regular checkups is not the only precaution to be taken to keep the condition in check. It is quintessential for a patient to keep a regular watch of his blood pressure in order to eliminate the chance of worsening the health condition. Home monitoring is also a beneficial idea to ascertain whether the prescribed treatment is beneficial or needs to be altered. It is advised by most doctors that the patient must record his blood pressure at the same time daily in order to keep a tab on the situation.

Myth#12: There is a treatment for hypertension.

Fact- There is no cure for the condition of high blood pressure. It is a lifelong condition which needs to be monitored and cared for throughout the lifespan of the patient. There is treatment available to subside the symptoms pertaining to the condition or stabilizing the health of the patient from deteriorating.

Myth#13: If a condition of hypertension does not show any symptoms in a patient then it is not dangerous.

Fact- Hypertension is also referred to as a silent killer disease. It is possible for most patients to not experience any symptoms associated with the condition. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to very severe health complications including heart strokes, rupturing of blood vessels, organ failure, and kidney and lung damage. Regular monitoring of blood pressure can help in early detection of the condition.

Myth #14: I am healthy and have a good lifestyle. I cannot have hypertension.

Fact- Hypertension is a condition that mostly runs in the family. People with immediate family members or relatives having hypertension are susceptible to developing this condition. Other factors causing hypertension are increased consumption of sodium, stress, substance abuse, and smoking among many others.

Myth#15: High heart rate is the same as high blood pressure. If I have a high heart rate, I have hypertension.

Fact- Heart rate refers to the number of times the heart pumps blood in a minute whereas blood pressure refers to the pressure with which the heart pumps blood and relaxes. A high heart rate does not imply that a person has high blood pressure. When a person indulges in activities such as heavy exercise, their heart rate rises, but the pressure at which the blood is pumping the blood remains the same. Thus, a high heart rate is not a sign of high blood pressure or hypertension.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) How serious is high blood pressure?

Ans: Since high blood pressure is a lifestyle disorder many people don’t take it seriously. However, uncontrolled hypertension could lead to stroke and other life-threatening diseases by damaging and weakening the blood vessels. You should consult a doctor if you experience such symptoms in your body.

2) How does obesity increase the risk of developing high blood pressure?

Ans: With the increase in the body weight, the blood pressure also rises and so being overweight automatically increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. With obesity, there is an increase in fatty tissues that increases the vascular resistance because of which heart has to work extra to pump the blood throughout the body making the arteries stiff and thick causing high blood pressure.

3) What age group is affected by hypertension?

Ans: The risk of high blood pressure increases, as one gets older because the blood vessels lose some of their elasticity with age.  However, high blood pressure can affect anybody including children.

4) How can you lower your blood pressure immediately?

Ans: Since, hypertension is a lifestyle disorder; lifestyle can play a significant role in treating it. Following a healthy lifestyle, one can avoid and delay the need for medication when it comes to high blood pressure. Some of the best ways to lower the blood pressure are by losing weight (in case you’re overweight) or managing it, by exercising regularly, by eating a healthy diet and by reducing the sodium in your diet. High blood pressure can also be controlled by limiting your alcohol intake and cutting back completely on tobacco. Avoid stress by incorporating yoga or meditation in your life. Drink lots of water and enrich your body with potassium and magnesium-rich food.

5) How do you feel if your blood pressure is high?

Ans: In general, high blood pressure is a ‘silent disease’ and over 90% of people don’t feel any symptoms. However, if the blood pressure may get extremely high, some people might feel some symptoms including a severe headache, chest pain, nausea, difficulty in breathing, blurring of vision, etc.

6) When should you be worried about your blood pressure?

Ans: For a normal blood pressure, the pressure needs to be between 90 to 120 (systolic pressure) and 60-80 (diastolic pressure).  If your reading is between normal and less than 140/90 it falls under pre-hypertensive range, in which case, you need to start changing making lifestyle changes to bring it to a normal level.

7) Can drinking water lower your blood pressure?

Ans: Water is one of the easiest ways to keep your body hydrated and to help lower your blood pressure naturally. Drink at least eight glasses of water and supplement it with other natural drinks like coconut water to keep your body hydrated.

8) Can hypertension be cured?

Ans: Hypertension is a lifestyle disorder that can only be managed and not cured (exceptional cases are when your high blood pressure is caused by other diseases. In certain cases, eliminating those diseases might bring your blood pressure to normal).

9) What is diabolic and systolic blood pressure?

Ans: Millimetres of mercury (mmHg) is the measure for the blood pressure of the human body. Systolic blood pressure is the rate at which the blood pumps blood through the arteries to the vessels during contraction and diabolic blood pressure is the rate at which the muscles of the heart relax. The normal rate of blood pressure is a systolic measurement of less than or equal to 120 mmHg and a diastolic measure of less than or equal to 80 mmHg.

10) What is the systolic and diastolic measure of the blood pressure of a patient suffering from hypertension?

Ans: A patient suffering from the condition of hypertension generally has a systolic measure of above 130 mmHg and a diastolic measure of over 80mmHG.

11) What are the health complications that can arise as a result of having high blood pressure?

Ans: Having a persistently high blood pressure can result in the occurrence of severe medical adversities. These can range from artery damage, stroke, kidney and lung problems to organ failure. High blood pressure is a really serious condition and must not be ignored or left untreated.

12) What should the diet of a hypertension patient comprise of?

Ans: The diet of a patient suffering from hypertension should comprise of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and food rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium. The intake of sodium must be strictly monitored and averted completely if possible.

13) How can a person with a family history of high blood pressure lower down his chance of getting hypertension?

Ans: A controlled diet and healthy lifestyle are most important for leading a healthy life. Hypertension is mainly caused due to improper and unhealthy lifestyle and dietary habits. If a person remains active, maintains their weight, consumes a healthy diet and controls the intake of sodium in his diet, he can avert the chances of acquiring hypertension as a pass down from the predecessors.

14) Is it possible that hypertension can be cured automatically without treatment?

Ans: Hypertension or high blood pressure is a persistent condition that can only be controlled and not cured. Thus, it is not possible for a patient of hypertension to be cured without any treatment.

15) If I am a patient with diabetes, am I more likely to have hypertension?

Ans: Diabetic patients are often at a heightened risk of acquiring heart-related illnesses. High blood pressure is a condition that must be given utmost attention by diabetic patients and monitored regularly in order to eliminate the chances of occurrence a severe complication.

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Last updated on : 24-12-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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