Hypertension is another term for high blood pressure, a disease that could potentially lead to health problems like strokes, heart disease and death if left untreated. Normal blood pressure is defined as the force of the blood flow within the walls of the blood vessels.

How hard the heart has to work and the resistance of the blood vessels are the two main determining factors of blood pressure. With this in mind, keeping blood pressure under control is key for maintaining good health and reducing the chances of getting ailments like aneurysms, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

The words “systolic” and “diastolic” readings are always recorded when your blood pressure is taken. The systolic reading is the rate at which the heart contracts to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, and the diastolic reading is the rate at which blood fills the chambers of the heart when it relaxes between contracting. It takes more effort to pump blood out, hence the systolic level reading is always higher than the diastolic level reading. The unit of measurement for blood pressure is mm Hg, which is millimetres of Mercury (Hg).

Note: the systolic reading is always recorded first, following by the diastolic reading. For example, a reading of 120/80 mm Hg means the systolic reading is 120 mm Hg, and the diastolic reading is 80 mm Hg.

Hypertension Stages

In 2017, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology set new blood pressure measurement guidelines which stated all readings over 120/80 mm Hg are considered “elevated”. The new categorization of the 4 stages of hypertension are as follows:

Normal: systolic reading <120 mm Hg while diastolic reading <80 mm Hg.

Elevated: systolic reading between 120-129 mm Hg while diastolic reading <80 mm Hg.

Stage 1: systolic reading between 130-139 mm Hg or diastolic reading between 80-89 mm Hg.

Stage 2: systolic reading at least 140 mm Hg or diastolic reading at least 90 mm Hg.

Causes of Hypertension

Though the exact causes of hypertension remain unknown, there are several factors that contribute to hypertension:

  • High intake of salt
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Sleep apnea
  • Family genes
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders

Solutions

There are several lifestyle changes one can make to reduce hypertension.

Firstly, one should have regular exercise. It is advised to those having hypertension to exercise at least 30mins five days in a week, to maintain steady blood pressure. Jogging, walking, swimming and cycling would be the recommended choices of exercise for those dealing with hypertension.

Second change would be to manage stress better. In today’s fast-paced world, it is very easy to get stressed out from long hours of work along with many various sources of stress (deadlines, endless rounds of meetings, skipping meals, etc.). Stress is a gateway to many diseases and illnesses and is a primary reason for many to take up the habit of smoking.

To remedy this, yoga, meditation, warm baths, breathing exercises and proper rest will help one reduce and manage stress. While it is a convenient excuse for many to take up smoking, this habit should be stopped as smoking leads to higher blood pressure and other more complicated problems.

The most obvious action to take while having hypertension is reduce the amount of salt in your diet. The intake of a high amount of salt is well known to increase the chances of developing hypertension. Including more fruits and vegetables in your diet would help reduce the symptoms of hypertension.

If all the above solutions are unsuccessful to bring down your high blood pressure, your medical practitioner will prescribe suitable medication to control your blood pressure, taking into account other medication you may already be on. Hypertension is known as a silent killer as it does not have noticeable symptoms. Taking regular blood pressure readings are important for you to consult your medical practitioner immediately on any elevated or abnormal readings, and an early intervention programme can be implemented.

By Aaron
2nd May 20:20

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