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How to manage high blood pressure

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Rotimi Adesanya

World Hypertension day was celebrated on May 17. The main aim of the day was to educate the public and increase awareness of hypertension, which is also commonly known as high blood pressure. This year’s theme is Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer.

Hypertension is a major cause of a range of health problems such as strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease, and can also contribute to dementia.

Many people who suffer from hypertension are not aware that they have it as there can be no symptoms, often people only find out after suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries.

Arteries carry blood from the heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day.

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: The first number, the upper number called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. 

The second number, the lower number called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. If the measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say, “120 over 80,” or write, “120/80 mmHg.”

A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg, No matter the age, one can take steps each day to keep the blood pressure in a healthy range.

Diagnosis

Health care professionals diagnose patients with high blood pressure if their blood pressure is consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher (2003 Guideline). Other health care professionals diagnose patients with high blood pressure if their blood pressure is consistently 130/80 mm Hg or higher. 

This limit is based on a guideline released in 2017 by The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults (2017 Guideline).

Other classifications are stated below: Stage 1 high blood pressure: 130-139/80-89; Stage 2 high blood pressure: 140 and above/90 and above; Hypertensive crisis: higher than 180/higher than 120 – this requires immediate hospital attention and admission.

Laboratory Investigations

These include urinalysis, electrolytes with creatinine, FBS, Lipid Profile, Chest X-ray, ECG and Abdominal ultrasound scans.

Causes

High blood pressure usually develops over time. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity. Certain lifestyles/health conditions such as diabetes, lack of physical activity, too much salt in the diet, alcohol consumption, stress, older age, genetics, chronic kidney disease, adrenal and thyroid disorders, sleep apnea, smoking and having obesity can also increase the risk for developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure also happens during pregnancy.

In many cases of high blood pressure, the underlying cause is not known. This type of high blood pressure is called essential hypertension. Though essential hypertension remains somewhat mysterious, it has been linked to certain risk factors. High blood pressure tends to run in families and is more likely to affect men than women. Age and race also play a role. In the United States, blacks are twice as likely as whites to have high blood pressure.

Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure

High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it. Measuring blood pressure is the only way to know whether one has high blood pressure or not.

Complications

High blood pressure can damage health in many ways. It can seriously hurt important organs like the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes.

Heart Attack and Heart Disease: Chest pain, also called angina; Heart attack -which happens when the blood supply to the heart is blocked and heart muscle begins to die without enough oxygen; Heart failure- a condition that means the heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to the other organs.

Stroke and Brain Problems: High blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or be blocked, causing a stroke. Brain cells die during a stroke because they do not get enough oxygen.

Death: High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it.

Treatment

Several antihypertensive drugs are readily available to lower high blood pressure.

Prevention

Many people with high blood pressure can lower their blood pressure into a healthy range by making lifestyle changes.

  • Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week (about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week)
  • Not smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet, including limiting sodium (salt) and alcohol
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Managing stress



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