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Key Things You Need to Know about the Silent Killer – Hypertension

March 29, 2023

Dr Msonter Anzaa

checking blood pressure

A person is said to have hypertension when their blood pressure is higher than the normal range. The heart pumps blood round all parts of the body to supply them oxygen and nutrients, and to remove waste from where it is generated to where it is excreted from the body. The force with which the heart pumps blood generates a certain amount of pressure which pushes the blood throughout the body. However, when this pressure is higher than normal, it becomes a medical problem. Any blood pressure reading of greater than 140/90mmHg, is considered to be hypertensive.

Causes of Hypertension

Hypertension is broadly classified into two types based on the cause. When there is no identifiable disease condition that is causing the hypertension, it is classified as primary or essential hypertension. On the other hand, when an identifiable disease or physiological condition is responsible for the hypertension, it is classified as secondary hypertension.

In most persons with hypertension, there is no identifiable cause. This means most cases of hypertension are primary or essential hypertension. However, there are certain risk factors that increase the chances of a person developing the condition. These include:

Family history: A person whose family member, especially a nuclear family member, has hypertension, has a higher risk of developing the condition than one whose family members do not have. Notwithstanding, hypertension is not genetically acquired. A positive family history increases the chances but does not make it compulsory for a person to have hypertension.

Obesity: Persons whose body-mass index is higher than the normal range have a higher risk of developing hypertension than those with normal values.

Smoking or alcohol consumption: These are also found to increase a person’s chances of developing hypertension.

Causes of secondary hypertension include:

Pregnancy: Some persons develop hypertension for the first time in their lives when they become pregnant. They are persons who did not have the condition before the pregnancy. Usually, this pregnancy-induced hypertension resolves at the end of the pregnancy.

Drugs: Certain drugs used to treat some conditions are known to cause hypertension as one of their side effects. Usually, your doctor will educate you on any serious side effects of the drugs they are prescribing for you. If your hypertension is drug-induced, your doctor will consider withdrawing the responsible drug.

Other Diseases: Other conditions, especially hormonal abnormalities of the thyroid or adrenal glands, can also cause hypertension. Usually, treatment of the underlying condition resolves the hypertension as well. Also, some kidney diseases are known to cause hypertension.

Symptoms and Complications of Hypertension

Hypertension is referred to as a silent killer because it often does not give any specific symptoms. This means that there are many persons who are not aware that they have the condition. However, when hypertension is left untreated for a long time, it causes damage to the person’s health. These complications include:

Heart failure: In hypertensive persons, the heart works against a much higher pressure than it does in normal individuals. With time, the heart can become tired and fail. Also, the heart muscle can become so enlarged that its own blood supply is no longer enough. When this happens, those parts of the muscle that lack sufficient blood begin to die, leading to a heart attack.

Stroke: Some blood vessels, especially those in the brain, cannot withstand a certain amount of pressure. In hypertensive individuals, these vessels can rupture or damage in other ways that prevent blood supply to some parts of the brain. When this happens, the person develops a stroke.

Kidney disease: Long-standing hypertension is also known to cause kidney conditions.

Other complications: Long-standing Other functions like eyesight and sexual function can also be affected by long-standing hypertension. Pregnancy-induced hypertension and another related condition, pre-eclampsia, are life-threatening both to the baby and the mother.

How to Control Hypertension

Primary or essential hypertension has no cure. In secondary hypertension, treating the underlying condition usually resolves the hypertension as well.

A combination of lifestyle choices and medications is used to control the blood pressure in persons with hypertension. Lifestyle choices include reduction in table salt consumption, regular physical exercise, and avoidance of alcohol and tobacco.

Individuals with hypertension can live normal lives and long life spans if the condition is well controlled. All members of the population should develop the habit of checking their blood pressure routinely.

Do you have a family history of hypertension, currently taking antihypertensive medications or do you think you are at risk of developing hypertension in some ways? Click here to talk to a doctor today.

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