What is Hypertension?
Hypertension refers to high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force on the walls of the arteries as the blood circulates. Blood pressure allows blood to flow and deliver nutrients to the body. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it remains high, the more damage is caused to your blood vessels.
Blood pressure increases with age. More than nine in ten Canadians will develop high blood pressure (hypertension) unless they follow a healthy lifestyle. High blood pressure is the leading risk for death. High blood pressure can also cause strokes, heart attacks, and heart and kidney failure, however; these problems can be prevented if high blood pressure is controlled.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
High blood pressure has no warning signs or symptoms – which is why it is often called a “silent killer”. Have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years by a health care provider or more often if your blood pressure is high. You can also check your blood pressure at home. Regular blood pressure checks help make sure that high blood pressure is diagnosed and controlled before it leads to serious health problems.
What causes high blood pressure?
Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body. Your heart’s pumping action makes pressure waves that push blood through your arteries – your blood vessels taking blood away from the heart. Blood pressure is the force of the pressure wave pushing against the walls of your arteries. It is related to the amount of blood flow (how strong and fast your heart is pumping) and the resistance to pushing blood through your arteries.
Our blood pressure changes through the day and from day to day to adjust to our activity and surroundings. Normally it is lowest when we are resting and changes with our activity and even our emotions. These temporary changes are completely normal. It is only when the blood pressure remains high that hypertension has developed. This can happen to anyone but it becomes much more common as we get older and starts earlier if one or both of our parents also have high blood pressure.
Hypertension will cause damage to the blood vessels and the organs that they supply blood to. This can cause strokes, heart attack, heart and kidney failure, dementia and erectile dysfunction. Finding high blood pressure before the blood vessels and organs are damaged and lowering it to normal with lifestyle changes and medications if necessary lowers the risk of developing these problems.
How is blood pressure treated?
There are medications known to lower blood pressure and therefore prevent heart attacks and strokes. They include diuretics (water pills), beta blockers (in those younger than 60), angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors), angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) and calcium channel blockers. Most people with high blood pressure need 2 or more medications, together with lifestyle changes, to lower their blood pressure.
Lifestyle and diet choices can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Be physically active for 30 to 60 minutes on most days. Choose healthier foods such as fresh vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products, whole grains and lean meat, fish and poultry. If you are overweight, losing about 10 lbs (5kg) will lower your blood pressure. Eating less salt, less processed foods, limiting the amount of alcohol intake and stopping smoking can reduce your blood pressure as well.
Click here for more information. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/high-blood-pressure