High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, refers to the increased pressure exerted on the walls as blood passes through arteries. Normal blood pressure is measured as 120/80 mm Hg. Pressure in the range of 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg is referred to as pre-hypertension, and those above the higher level is known as hypertension. This increased stress on the arterial walls and may lead to many serious conditions, including heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is one of the most frequent causes of a heart attack. If left untreated, this condition increases the risk of many life-threatening conditions. The top number refers to the arterial pressure when the heart is contracting, while the lower number stands for the arterial pressure when the heart relaxes.
Hypertension is a condition that develops over a period of time. In many cases, people may not have any obvious symptoms or signs for hypertension. Therefore, this condition is often known as the ‘silent killer’. About one-third of people with hypertension do not have any symptoms. The only way to know of its presence is through regular medical checkups. Checkups are important particularly in those cases where it runs in families.
In some cases, people with hypertension may have the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Irregular heart beat
- Pounding feeling in the chest or ears
One should meet the physician immediately if they have any of these symptoms. In many cases, the person comes to know of this condition only when they face significant damage to the organs due to hypertension. One should ideally take blood pressure measurements twice a year during their routine medical checkups. Frequent blood pressure screenings would help to identify high blood pressure in patients without any prominent symptoms. About 1 in 100 people have severe forms of this condition, who too are without any symptoms.
It also helps if one is aware of the major causes and risk factors of the condition. Kidney problems, adrenal gland tumors, congenital defects in blood vessels, certain medications, and drug abuse are some of the major causes of hypertension.
The major risk factors of this condition include:
- Family history
- Increased sodium intake
- Reduced potassium intake
- Inadequate amounts of vitamin D in diet
- Alcohol abuse
- Lack of regular exercise
- Chronic conditions