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Understanding The Silent Killer
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) is a disease that is often associated with and causes other diseases such as heart disease. Its onset can be subtle and sufferers may not be aware of their condition until later in life. However, an asymptomatic person still has the same risk of developing other diseases, including heart disease and stroke.
High blood pressure is often asymptomatic, even at high levels.
Patients who report symptoms often report headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). However, these symptoms are often non-specific and patients with severe hypertension may not show any symptoms.
Blood pressure is usually taken as a routine during treatment. If you are concerned, ask your doctor to check your blood pressure at your next visit.
If you are 40 years of age or older, or if you have a family history of high blood pressure, it is a good idea to have your blood pressure checked as a routine.
Alternatively, there are automatic blood pressure monitors available for purchase over the counter for home monitoring.
Types of Hypertension
Primary (Essential) Hypertension
This refers to a group of adults who have no known cause of hypertension. It is often hidden and grows slowly over many years.
This refers to a group in which there are known causes of hypertension. These reasons may include:
Hormonal deficiency eg thyroid disease
Occult tumors of the adrenal gland
Congenital birth defects
Obstructive sleep apnea
Medicines that cause serious illness
- Age. The risk of hypertension increases around the age of 45. It is more serious in men than in women although women’s risk is close to that of men after menopause.
- Competition. It has been found that black patients have a tendency to develop hypertension.
- A good family history of high blood pressure. There is a genetic link to hypertension.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) (Underweight / Obese Categories) Patients with a higher BMI tend to have more hypertension compared to their leaner counterparts.
- Generalized lethargy. Patients who tend to lead an inactive lifestyle often have a higher heart rate and higher BMIs, which increase the risk of hypertension.
- Smoking. Smoking causes high blood pressure and over time, causes hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels. This is also seen in people who smoke.
- Sodium (Table Salt) and Potassium Intake. Table salt, sodium chloride, when consumed in large quantities, causes fluid retention in the body, increasing blood pressure. Potassium, on the other hand, acts against sodium. So an excess of sodium or a lack of potassium can cause fluctuations in blood pressure. .
- Drinking Alcohol. Alcohol causes global effects in the body. Drinking too much alcohol can cause fluctuations in blood pressure.
- Associated Chronic Conditions. Kidney failure, diabetes, shortness of breath, etc., and even chronic stress, all lead to serious illnesses.
- Special Features. Pre-eclampsia, or Hypertension during pregnancy, congenital defects, are examples of special conditions that cause hypertension.
- Heart attack – This is the most common form of hypertension.
- Cerebrovascular accidents – What is known as a stroke.
- Aneurysms – disease High blood pressure for a long time can cause the weakening of the walls of the arteries, causing the arteries to collapse, forming aneurysms.
- Heart failure – Defined as the inability of the heart to pump blood around the body as needed, heart failure is caused by long-term, chronic high blood pressure. Long-term high blood pressure causes thickening of the heart muscle, which leads to irregular strokes that eventually lead to heart failure.
- Renal failure – It is important to note that although kidney failure can lead to severe disease, high blood pressure causes a weakening of the nerves inside the kidney, which causes kidney failure.
- Ophthalmological problems – Damage to the small blood vessels inside the eye can cause blurred vision or vision loss in severe cases.
- Side effects – It has been documented that patients with long-term and chronic hypertension often suffer from cognitive impairment, memory loss, and non-specific symptom clusters such as Metabolic Syndrome.
It is important to talk to your doctor if you are concerned that you may have a serious illness.
When you see a doctor, no special preparation is necessary although it is important to be calm during the examination because anxiety can cause high blood pressure.
Also be aware that the first consultation may be longer as there will be a lot to discuss before starting any anti-hypertensive medications.
You should inform your doctor of the following:
Any symptoms you’ve had – such as shortness of breath, chest pain, tinnitus etc.
Your family history, especially if your family has serious illnesses.
Your treatment plan.
Your current medical history, especially if you have chronic conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and high cholesterol.
Your current lifestyle honestly – This includes diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking.
Your last Pressure reading if available.
Your doctor will test your Blood Pressure and inform you of your Blood Pressure readings.
Blood Pressure is defined by two calculations:
Systolic BP (Maximum Reading)
Diastolic BP (Lower Reading)
There are many groups of blood pressure in relation to systolic and diastolic blood pressure because the definition of Blood Pressure varies according to age and race. Your doctor will decide after you take your blood pressure, maybe after reading it several times in different situations.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend a 24-hour blood pressure monitor to better understand how your blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day. This means you will need to monitor your BP at home.
Additional tests your doctor may order include:
A urine test to check for protein in the urine
Blood tests to determine cholesterol levels
After confirming the diagnosis, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes as the first line of treatment, followed by medical treatment afterwards.
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