Hypertension - Symptoms
Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a disease of civilizations that affects 20% of the world's population. Normal blood pressure values are between 110/65mmHg and 140/90mmHg. If values above 140/90mmHg are measured repeatedly, it is a sign of hypertension. The first value is the highest blood pressure value at the moment when the chambers in the heart contract, and the second value is the lowest pressure, when the chambers relax and fill with blood. Symptoms of hypertension can vary and can be divided into specific and non-specific symptoms.
Causes of Hypertension
Hypertension is a disease that affects more than a third of Americans, one in five Canadians and one quarter of the UK population. 90% of suffers have primary hypertension, where the exact cause is unknown. However, it is certain that there are multiple factors causing the disease. These include primarily unhealthy lifestyle choices, too much fat and salt in foods, not enough exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity. About 10% of all patients suffering from hypertension have secondary hypertension. In these cases the cause is another underlying illness, typically heart disease, kidney disease, adrenal or hormonal disorders.
Non-specific Symptoms of Hypertension
Non-specific symptoms are symptoms that can be found in many other illnesses and are therefore not specific to hypertension. These symptoms include headaches, typically in the morning, tinnitus, dizziness and chest pain. Frequent nose bleeds are also common. Any such symptoms are warning signals that need to be checked by a doctor, as long-term, untreated hypertension can have many severe complications.
Specific Symptoms for Hypertension
Hypertension mostly affects the heart, as the higher the blood pressure, the more the heart must work to ensure sufficient blood supply. As a result, the heart enlarges. Overtime, the heart becomes worn out and this can lead to heart failure. One of the most obvious symptoms of hypertension is shortness of breath due to an increase in fluid in the lungs. The heart's conduction system, which conducts electrical signals for regular contractions, can also be damaged. When this system stops working properly, it can result in arrhythmia, felt as heart palpitations by the patient. In the most extreme cases the heart can stop completely, which without immediate medical assistance leads to death. High blood pressure also damages blood vessels. These are then more susceptible to changes, especially atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This can result in the blood supply to the heart muscle being restricted, manifesting itself as chest pain during exercise, or even at rest in more severe cases. Other symptoms of long-term hypertension can cause bleeding into the brain or a blot clot in a cerebral artery, causing a stroke. Long-term, untreated hypertension often leads to kidney damage or failure, requiring regular dialysis. One of the most acute medical conditions in medicine is a ruptured aorta, its cause often being hypertension. We also must not forget retinal disorders, which can lead to vision problems and even blindness in the most severe cases.
Complications of Hypertension
Hypertension is a disease that must be treated, as long-term elevated blood pressure has detrimental effects on blood vessels and organs in the body. Hypertension leads to a more rapid progression of atherosclerosis, or damage to the arteries, where fat particles collect on arterial walls, narrowing their lumen. This leads to restricted blood supply to organs. As a result, hypertension can cause a heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney damage or failure.
Hypertension is diagnosed based on blood pressure values. Blood pressure is usually taken with a sphygmomanometer at every doctor's visit. The cuff is wrapped around the patient's relaxed upper arm and inflated. The patient must also be calm and relaxed. In the event that high blood pressure is detected, the measurement should be repeated in order to prevent so-called white coat syndrome. This is where a patient's blood pressure rises due to the stress and anxiety of visiting the doctor, resulting in a false diagnosis of hypertension.
Hypertension can be treated conservatively or pharmacologically. Conservative treatment is suitable for primary hypertension, where the most important factor is a change in lifestyle. A lifestyle change means improving eating habits, limiting fatty and salty foods, abstaining from alcohol and smoking, getting enough exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. Secondary hypertension requires the treatment of the underlying illness, which is causing hypertension. Both types require pharmacological treatment with the help of antihypertensives, which is a large group of medications that lower blood pressure in a variety of ways.
Early detection of high blood pressure is very important for prompt treatment. It is therefore important for blood pressure to be measured regularly, at every doctor's visit or at home. If hypertension is confirmed, minor lifestyle changes are often enough for its treatment. This means eating a healthy balanced diet, with enough fruits and vegetables, and a limited amount of fat. Regular physical activity is also recommended, which can result in weight loss in itself. Treatment is very effective and some changes can be reversed if caught early.