By Tlotlisang Phoku
Hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels as it is pumped by the heart. The higher the pressure, the harder the heart has to pump.
Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney failure and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women over a billion diagnosed with the condition.
Hypertension often produces no symptoms, but it can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious conditions. Medication and lifestyle choices can help manage hypertension. Managing blood pressure is vital for preserving health and reducing the risk of these dangerous conditions. It is important to check blood pressure regularly as a person may not notice any symptoms of hypertension. Without detection, hypertension damage blood vessels and other organs such as the heart.
In rare and severe cases, high blood pressure can cause sweating, anxiety, sleeping problems and blushing. Most people with hypertension will experience no symptoms at all. If high blood pressure becomes a hypertension crisis, a person may experience headaches and nosebleeds. Long term hypertension cause complications through narrowing of arteries.
Narrowing worsens hypertension because the heart must pump harder to circulate the blood. Narrow arteries can lead to heart failure and heart attacks, kidney failure, stroke amputation and blindness. Regular blood pressure monitoring can help people avoid this severe complications.
Having blood pressure for a short time can be a normal response to many people. Acute stress and intense exercise, can briefly elevate blood pressure in an otherwise healthy person. For this reason, a diagnosis of hypertension requires several readings that show sustained high blood pressure over time.
The course of hypertension is often not known. In many cases, it is the result of underlying conditions. High blood pressure that is not caused by another condition or disease is known as primary or essential hypertension. If an underlying condition is the root cause of increased blood pressure, doctors call this secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension can result from multiple factors including: obesity, insulin resistance, high salt intake, excessive alcohol intake and smoking. Secondary hypertension has specific causes and a complication of another health problem. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a common cause of high blood pressure, as the kidney no longer filter out fluid. This excess fluid leads to hypertension.
Other conditions that can lead to hypertension include: diabetes, due to it causing kidney problems and nerve damage, Pheochromocytoma- a rare cancer of an adrenal gland, pregnancy and obesity. A number of factors increase the risk of hypertension. Factors include age; hypertension is more common in people who are over 65 years of age, weight; obesity is a primary risk factor for hypertension, alcohol and tobacco use; regularly consuming large amounts of alcohol or tobacco can increase blood pressure, sex; male have a higher risk of developing hypertension than females. Existing health conditions; diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and high cholesterol level can lead to hypertension especially as people age.
In an interview with Mrs. Mamonica Mokhesi Makhozonke who is a public health specialist, nurse, midwives and community health nurse, she said there are two main causes of hypertension which are genetics and age. She said people above 35 years are more likely to have high blood pressure as their blood vessels are no longer as elastic as those of youngsters. She said hypertension is genetically inherited, people can have narrow blood vessels from birth and that can cause a risk of blood pressure.
Mkhozonke said world hypertension day is celebrated on the 17th May every year by wearing a high blood pressure red ribbon and giving education about hypertension. In celebration if this day, Health Direct Pharmaceutical Solutions and Clinic offered free high blood pressure (HP) testing. She said reducing cholesterol, salt, alcohol, tobacco, distressing, getting enough rest and change of unhealthy lifestyle can help a lot in the prevention of high blood pressure. She also advised that people above 35 years should often test their blood pressure because they are at a very high risk of it.
Lifestyle adjustments are standard, first line treatment for hypertension. Current guidelines recommend that all people, including those with hypertension engage in at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise. People should exercise at least 5 days every week. Examples of suitable exercises are walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming.
Avoiding or learning to manage stress can help a person control blood pressure. Techniques that reduce stress are warm baths, yoga and going on long walks. People who have high blood pressure or those who are at high risk of developing it should reduce their intake of fats. Mrs. Mkhozonke recommends that people with hypertension prioritize more heart-healthy foods such as a variety of fruits and vegetables and non-tropical vegetable oils such as olive oil.
Limiting fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, animal fats and processed fast foods can help manage blood pressure. However, some fats can be healthful addition to diet plans. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and olive oil, have protective effects on the heart. While these are typically healthful, people with a risk of hypertension should still include them in their total fat intake.
Excess body weight can contribute to hypertension. A fall in blood pressure usually follows weight loss because the heart does not have to work so hard to pump blood around the body. A balanced died with a calorie intake that matches a person’s size, sex, and activity can help.
Physical relaxation and calming breathing exercises can help lower blood pressure in periods of extreme stress. Taking relevant medication and practicing healthy lifestyle habits are often the fastest ways to lower blood pressure in the short to medium term. With treatment, people can almost always bring their blood pressure to healthful levels.