Hypertension - Prevention
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common cardiovascular disease. It affects about 20% of the world's population, mostly in developed countries. This is due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. About 32% of all Americans, 18% of all Canadians and 30% of the UK population suffer from this disease. Hypertension is when blood pressure rises above 140/90 mmHg. Hypertension must be treated in order to avoid further complications. However, the best treatment method is prevention.
Causes of Hypertension
Hypertension is a disease where its specific cause is often unknown. This is known as primary hypertension and affects up to 95% of hypertension sufferers. In these cases, hypertension is caused by various factors, including age, older individuals are more prone to the disease, gender, women are affected more often than men and genetic predisposition as it can increase the likelihood of being affected by hypertension. None of these factors can be influenced or changed, but there are others than can. These include an unhealthy lifestyle, consuming too many fats and salts, obesity, inactivity, smoking and excess alcohol consumption. In the case of secondary hypertension, the cause is an underlying illness. This illness is increasing blood pressure and can be in the form of a cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, hormonal disorder or other illness.
Manifestations of Hypertension
In the beginning phases of hypertension, the most common manifestation is headaches. Other symptoms can include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, pressure in the temples or frequent nosebleeds. However, some patients do not experience any clinical symptoms and therefore hypertension is sometimes found accidently during a routine or unrelated doctor's visit.
Complications of Hypertension
Hypertension is a disease that must be treated, as long term elevated blood pressure can have detrimental effects on blood vessels and organs. Hypertension leads to a more rapid development of atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries due to fat deposits on their walls, narrowing their lumen. This decreases blood supply to organs. Hypertension can also result in myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure and kidney damage, gradually leading to kidney failure.
Hypertension is diagnosed according to blood pressure values measured with a blood pressure meter or sphygmomanometer. This is a routine procedure done at almost every doctor's visit. In the event of a blood pressure value above 140/90 mmHg, the measurement should be repeated. This is to prevent so-called white coat syndrome, where high blood pressure is caused by the patient's anxiety over visiting the doctor. It could result in a false diagnosis of hypertension.
Treatment for hypertension includes conservative and pharmacological methods. Conservative treatment requires lifestyles modifications, including lowering a patient's fat and salt intake. Abstaining from alcohol, smoking and maintain a healthy weight are also recommended. Getting enough exercise is an essential part of hypertension treatment. If these methods are not sufficient, pharmacological treatment in the form of hypertensives is required. Secondary hypertension requires the treatment of the primary, underlying illness that is causing the high blood pressure.
Prevention is a set of measures leading the reduced risk of developing a specific illness. In the case of hypertension, prevention is the best treatment method. There are a number of principles that should be maintained in the event developing of high blood pressure.
Hypertension and Diet
An unhealthy diet is the most important pillar for the development of hypertension. Changes in eating habits can help significantly reduce the number of hypertension sufferers worldwide. A balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber, and smaller meals eaten more frequently, are recommended. It is also advisable to eat no later than 2 hours before going to bed.
Hypertension and Exercise
Exercise is one of the most important principles in preventing hypertension. Because hypertension often affects obese individuals, exercise also helps lose excess weight. Aerobic activities are recommended, such as running, biking, swimming or aerobics, however walking regularly is sufficient.
Hypertension and Smoking
Some substances inside cigarettes support the production of free radicals in the human body. Among others, these act on fat particles in our blood and in some way change them. These changed fat particles are more easily deposited in blood vessels. Fat in the walls of blood vessels cause them to harden (atherosclerosis). Alcohol affects arterial walls. In large amounts, alcohol causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), thereby increasing blood pressure.
Hypertension and Salt
Salt is harmful in that it is able to bind to water and thereby keep it in the body. With too much salt, water retention increases. Because large amounts of sodium, a part of salt, are found in the blood stream, it can affect blood volume. A large volume of blood means higher blood pressure.
Hypertension and Stress
Stress is the body's reaction to pressure. To a certain extent it is normal, though long-term and frequent bouts of stress can have adverse effects. With stress, a certain part of the nervous system is activated, which affects blood vessels, among other things, and causes them to narrow.