Before we understand what exactly Hypertension is, let’s spare a few moments understanding what ‘Blood pressure’ is.
Blood pressure is the measure of force that is exerted by the blood on the walls of the blood vessels. This blood is typically pumped into the blood vessels by the heart, and these vessels then carry the blood across all parts of the body.
The blood pressure is recorded in a two-number format and written as a ratio, namely the systolic pressure (numerator) and the diastolic pressure (denominator).
According to the guidelines given by the American Heart Association, if the blood pressure falls in one of the below categories then the condition is called Hypertension:
- Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic: between 130-139 or Diastolic: between 80-89
- Stage 2 Hypertension: Systolic: 140 or higher and Diastolic: 90 or higher
- Hypertensive crisis: Systolic: Above 180 and Diastolic: Above 120
Thus, Hypertension is nothing but high blood pressure and is a serious condition because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood into the body and if not controlled, can result in an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failures.
While the exact causes of Hypertension are still unknown, medical practitioners attribute this condition to specific factors namely:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Increases salt intake
While Hypertension doesn’t show any severe sign (which is why it is also called a ‘silent killer’) as such, it is sometimes observed that some people suffering from high blood pressure do show signs of sweating, sleeping problems, and anxiety. However, if the Hypertensive crisis condition is reached, the patient may suffer from nose bleeding and headaches.
One of the best ways to keep a check on Hypertension is to check the blood pressure level regularly. This check is done with the help of a sphygmomanometer, a blood pressure monitor. While doing this test, doctors keep a blood pressure cuff on the arm. The cuff has a gauge attached to it which measures the pressure in the blood vessels. Many doctors suggest that you should avoid drinking coffee or smoke a cigarette about 30 minutes before taking the test. Doing so causes a rise in the blood pressure on a temporary basis.
While many doctors prescribe medication to deal with Hypertension, generally, it is best treated by bringing about a change in lifestyle and improving dietary choices.
Some lifestyle adjustments include:
- Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling or jogging
- Giving up smoking
- Reducing salt intake
- Cutting down on alcohol consumption
- Increasing the intake of fresh fruits and veggies, high-fiber and whole-grain foods, low-fat dairy products
- Keeping a check on body weight
Doctors recommend a ‘DASH – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension’ diet for people suffering from high blood pressure which adheres to the above lifestyle adjustments.