High blood pressure is sometimes referred to as the ‘silent killer’. This term is appropriate because high blood pressure can remain symptomless for a long time such that the first symptom would probably be a last one in form of a stroke or a hemorrhagic cerebral vascular accident where it may prove fatal. Many patients are diagnosed with this problem while on routine check-up.
High blood pressure is defined as the sustained high force of blood in the arteries that is above the accepted average. In a day there are many factors that cause blood pressure fluctuations but it will always settle back. A blood pressure that is persistently higher than 90mmHg (diastolic) and above 140mmHg is considered high. A diastolic above 110mmHg is considered a medical emergency as the risk of a cerebral event is high at that range and above.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
The disease can remain symptomless. When symptoms are there they may include non-specific symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Sudden nose bleeding which is severe sometimes. This is more likely in a hypertensive crisis.
- Difficulty in breathing during exertion.
Causes of high blood pressure
High blood pressure causes are classified into 2 groups.
- Primary high blood pressure. In this group no obvious factors can be attributed to the raised pressure.
- Secondary high blood pressure. Here there is an underlying condition that is causing the rise in pressure. The primary problem could be in the adrenal gland, kidneys, liver, the heart and blood vessels. If blood vessels are narrowed due to cholesterol plaques or due to vessel thickening, there is increased blood flow resistance and subsequent rise in arterial pressure
Risk factors that increase chances of high blood pressure include:
- Sedentary life
- Diets high in common table salt, saturated fats and sugar. Highly processed foods are also a risk.
- Excess consumption of alcohol
- Family history of diabetes
- Other metabolic disorders such as metabolic syndrome
- Those aged above 65
Diagnosis of high blood pressure
Unless a patient is already in a hypertensive crisis with diastolic pressure above 110mmHg, serial blood pressure taking and readings should be done and when they are consistently high, then a diagnosis of high blood pressure can be made.
Management of high blood pressure
The best form of treatment for this condition is to prevent it in the first place. This can involve maintaining a healthy diet and body weight. Physical exercises also go a long way in maintaining good heart health. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed it is good to look for the primary cause if it can be identified and have it treated or removed. Other measures include:
Apart from removing the primary problem, medications form the mainstay of high blood pressure management. There are many types of drugs that are grouped according to their mode of action in the body. Examples of these broad classifications include:
- Diuretics or water pills as they are commonly called
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.
- Calcium channel blockers
- Renin inhibitors
These are only a few of the many classes of anti-high blood pressure groups of drugs. Under the broad classifications of there are many individual original as well as generic medications which are manufactured by various companies. Each of this group of drugs work in a specific way and it is the decision of the doctor on which drugs to use depending on many factors considered together.
Effective control of high blood pressure allows the patient to lead a fairly normal life. Poor control can lead to serious complications such as a stroke and paralysis or death.