Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is one of the major risk factors for cerebrovascular disease such as stroke and coronary heart disease.
Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. High blood pressure indicates that the heart is working harder than it should and the arteries are under great strain.
Normal blood pressure can vary
from 90/60 mmHg to 120/80
mmHg in a young and healthy
person. Hypertension is present
when a person’s blood pressure is
persistently above 140/90 mmHg.
If you have diabetes or kidney
disease, you must try to keep
your blood pressure at around
120/80 mmHg because even a
marginally high blood pressure will
increase your risk of developing
Hypertension usually occurs
without any symptoms. However,
if left untreated and uncontrolled,
hypertension can lead to damage of
the heart and blood vessels, and cause
stroke, heart attack or kidney failure.
When blood pressure is extremely
high, you may experience headaches,
dizziness or changes in vision.
In most cases of hypertension in adults, there is no known cause. This type of hypertension is called primary or essential hypertension and it has usually developed over many years.
In 5 to 10 percent of cases, hypertension is caused by other underlying medical conditions.
Factors you cannot control
Age. Older people are at a higher risk of developing hypertension. Women are at higher risk after menopause.
Family history. Hypertension tends to run in families.
Factors you can control
Smoking. Chemicals in cigarettes cause the heart to pump faster and lead to higher blood pressure.
Alcohol. Your blood pressure can be elevated by alcohol consumption as the body releases hormones that increase blood flow and heart rate.
Overweight. The heart needs to pump harder to supply a person who is overweight. You can reduce your risk of getting high blood pressure by keeping your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 22.9.
Too much salt in diet. Blood pressure
is increased as salt causes the body to
retain too much fluid.
Inactive lifestyle. People who are
physically inactive often have higher
heart rates, which means that the
heart must work harder and exert
more force on the arteries.
High blood cholesterol. Your blood
vessels become more rigid due to
atherosclerosis, a process where fatty
substances are deposited in blood
Other health conditions. About 10
percent of people with high blood
pressure have underlying kidney
diseases or hormonal disorders.
You should have your blood pressure
checked at least once a year.
If you are diagnosed with high blood
pressure or hypertension, your doctor
may recommend that you take the
following tests to detect damage to
the heart or blood vessels.
Electrocardiogram (ECG). A noninvasive
test that helps to assess the
extent of damage, if any, of heart muscle.
Echocardiogram. An ultrasound
examination of the heart that helps
to assess the blood supply to heart
muscles indirectly. It also measures the
strength of the heart muscle.
Marginally elevated blood pressure
may improve with changes in lifestyle
such as weight loss, more exercise
and reduction in salt intake. If these
measures are not successful, then drug
treatment may be needed.
However, once medication has started,
it is essential to continue with the
treatment on a long-term basis, which
is likely to be life-long for most people.
It is also important to complement the
treatment with a healthy lifestyle.
Drugs used to treat high blood