Health A-Z

What is Hypertension?


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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), An estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years worldwide have hypertension. An estimated 46% of adults with this condition are unaware that they have hypertension. Did you know that hypertension is one of the leading causes of death worldwide? Also, according to WHO, 1.13 billion people worldwide have hypertension. The prevalence of this condition might rise in the UAE due to many people leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is a common condition that develops over several years and you don’t usually notice any symptoms. Even without symptoms, hypertension can damage your organs and blood vessels, especially the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. Hypertension is determined by the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the resistance to blood flow in your arteries.

Narrow blood vessels (arteries) create more resistance to blood flow. If your arteries are narrower than normal, the more resistance they create, and the higher your blood pressure rises. Increased pressure can cause long-term problems like heart disease. Regular blood pressure readings can help in early detection. If you have high blood pressure, your physician will check your blood pressure over a few weeks to see whether it changes.

What are High Blood Pressure Readings?

High blood pressure is made up of 2 numbers Systolic pressure (top number) and Diastolic pressure (bottom number). Systolic pressure is the pressure measured in your arteries when the heart pumps out blood. Diastolic pressure shows the pressure in your arteries between every beat.

Categories that determine high blood pressure in adults include;

·       Healthy - A healthy blood pressure reads below 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury).

·       Elevated High blood pressure – The systolic number ranges between 120- and 129-mm Hg, while the diastolic number reads below 80 mm Hg. Physicians don’t prescribe medication for elevated high blood pressure; they recommend lifestyle changes.

·       Stage 1 hypertension - It happens when your systolic number ranges between 130- and 139-mm Hg or the diastolic number reads between 80- and 89-mm Hg.

·       Stage 2 hypertension – With this stage, the systolic number is between 140 mm Hg or higher, or the diastolic number is between 90 mm Hg or higher.

·       Hypertensive crisis – When this happens the systolic number is higher than 180 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is over 120 mm Hg. This stage requires urgent medical attention.

Blood pressure readings for teens and children are different.

 

Hypertension Symptoms


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Although hypertension does not cause any noticeable symptoms, there are indicators to show that you have the condition. They include;

Frequent Symptoms

Although most people don’t experience symptoms, those that occur indicate temporary elevation or fluctuations in blood pressure. Generally, these symptoms can happen any time, don’t last long, and may recur. They include;

·       Recurring Headaches – Most people experience headaches with or without high blood pressure; however, if you have hypertension, you might notice changes or escalating headaches when you skip medication or when your blood pressure is higher than usual. These headaches can be moderate, mild, severe, or throbbing.

·       Shortness of breath – Hypertension can cause shortness of breath because of how it affects the heart and lungs. Shortness of breath is more noticeable during exercise.

·       Dizziness - You might experience dizziness in relation to blood pressure fluctuations and medication doses.

·       Nosebleed – You might experience nosebleeds frequently if you have hypertension although nosebleeds are not the definitive symptoms of hypertension.

Rare Symptoms

When extreme hypertension occurs abruptly, symptoms are more noticeable; however, it is vital to know that you might have no symptoms. Severe high blood pressure symptoms include;

·       Vision disturbances – Vision changes and blurry vision indicate that you might have a serious health condition like a heart attack or stroke.

·       Dizziness – When this is caused by very high blood pressure it feels like vertigo.

·       Headaches – Very high blood pressure causes throbbing headaches.

·       Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite – Nausea caused by severe hypertension can occur suddenly and can be accompanied by dizziness.

Causes of Hypertension

There are 2 types and each has various causes.

Primary (Essential) Hypertension

Primary hypertension is common and it develops over time. A combination of factors leads to the development of this condition;

·       Age – You are at risk of developing hypertension if you are above 65 years.

·       Genes – Some individuals are more likely to develop hypertension from genetic abnormalities or gene mutations inherited from their parents.

·       Race – Black non-Hispanic individuals suffer more from hypertension.

·       Sedentary lifestyle – You are more likely to develop hypertension if you don’t exercise.

·       High alcohol consumption – Women who consume more than 1 drink daily, and men who consume 2 drinks daily have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

·       Obesity – Being overweight can cause cardiac issues like hypertension.

·       High sodium consumption – There is a link between high sodium consumption to hypertension.

·       Diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome – You have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure if you have metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

Secondary Hypertension

Secondary hypertension occurs suddenly and can be more severe than primary hypertension. Conditions that might cause secondary hypertension include;

·       Using illegal drugs

·       Kidney disease

·       Medication side-effects

·       Obstructive sleep apnea

·       Thyroid problems

·       Congenital heart disease

·       Chronic alcohol consumption

·       Various endocrine tumors

·       Adrenal gland problems.

How is Hypertension Diagnosed?

Your doctor might recommend any of these tests to determine whether you have hypertension;

·       Lab tests – They include cholesterol, blood, and urine tests.

·       Ambulatory monitoring – This is a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring test. The device used measures your blood pressure at various intervals within 24 hours and gives an accurate diagnosis of blood pressure changes during an average day and night.

·       Echocardiogram – Your physician might recommend this test depending on your signs and symptoms.

·       Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - This is a quick and painless test that measures your heart’s electrical activity.

Treatment

Changing your lifestyle is one of the best ways to control and manage hypertension. Your physician might recommend medication depending on your overall health and blood pressure measurements.

 It is never late to prioritize your health by changing your lifestyle and having regular tests. Severe blood pressure can cause serious health problems; that is why regular tests are vital.

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