Hypertension has become a household disease in recent times. More and more people are coming under the torturous thumb of this chronic ailment every year. A 2014 report published in the Journal of Hypertension shows that about 30% of India’s population is hypertensive. And with every passing year since then, the hypertension curve has been witnessing a steady rise.
According to WHO, 45% of Indians in the age group of 40-69 suffer from cardiovascular diseases to which hypertension is one of the greatest contributing factors.
The global picture of hypertension is just as grim. All these glaring numbers are conveying a clear message – we must pay due attention to curbing hypertension.
To do that, we must first understand what hypertension is, its causes and symptoms, and how to diagnose and treat it.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension is a severe condition of high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force that is exerted on a person’s arteries and blood vessels with each pump of blood from the heart. The pressure usually depends on the amount of blood that the heart pumps and the narrowness of the arteries which builds resistance against the blood flow.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). A blood pressure reading contains two numbers:
Systolic pressure: This number appears at the top and measures the pressure on arteries during each heartbeat.
Diastolic pressure: This number appears at the bottom and measures the pressure on arteries in between the heartbeats.
Cause of Hypertension
The causes of hypertension can be manifold. Experts have categorized hypertension into primary and secondary.
The cause of primary hypertension is hard to identify. It generally develops with a gradual increment in blood pressure over time. It may also develop as a hereditary condition and trickle down through generations.
Secondary hypertension can be caused due to a variety of reasons. It may develop as a side effect of other underlining health conditions like thyroid, kidney diseases, obesity, etc.
Taking certain medicines can also cause an increase in blood pressure, but this is a temporary effect, and the pressure returns to normal once the medicine is stopped under doctor’s supervision.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension is also referred to as a “silent killer” because most often there are no obvious symptoms that can indicate its hold over your body. This is why a large section of hypertensive people remain undiagnosed and untreated.
A severe spike in the blood pressure may reveal itself through some symptoms here and there. It is crucial to be aware of all the possible symptoms of hypertension and get yourself checked if some of them are recurrent.
Some of the symptoms of hypertension or high blood pressure are:
- Buzzing ears
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sleep problems
How to Diagnose Hypertension?
As symptoms of hypertension are rarely seen or occur in such an infrequent manner, it is difficult to diagnose it yourself. Doctors and experts advise getting your blood pressure checked every 6 months at the least.
Checking your blood pressure is a quick and easy process. Your doctor or nurse will wrap an inflatable cuff to your arm that is connected to a monitor and measure your blood pressure levels. Ideally, the pressure should be measured in both arms to check whether there’s a difference.
Examining blood pressure levels is an intrinsic part of any physical check-up and can be done at any clinic. You can also purchase a blood pressure monitor and measure it at home for frequent check-ups.
What is Normal Blood Pressure?
- According to the National Institute of Aging, a systolic pressure of <120 and a diastolic pressure of <80 are considered normal blood pressure readings for adults.
- If the systolic pressure reads between 120 and 129 and the diastolic pressure is <80, then the blood pressure level is considered elevated.
- If the systolic pressure measures higher than 130, and the diastolic pressure is higher than 80, it is considered high blood pressure or hypertension stage 1.
- Hypertension stage 2 is when the systolic pressure reaches 140 or higher, and diastolic reaches 90 or higher
- Hypertension stage 3, also known as the hypertensive crisis is when the top number reaches 180 or above, and the bottom number reaches 120 or above.
Refer to the table below to assess your blood pressure category:
|Category||Systolic pressure mm Hg (top number)||Diastolic pressure mm Hg (bottom number)|
|Low blood pressure (hypotension)||Less than 90||Less than 60|
|Normal blood pressure||Less than 120||Less than 80|
|Elevated blood pressure||120 – 129||Less than 80|
|Hypertension stage 1||130 – 139||80 – 89|
|Hypertension stage 2||140 or higher||90 or higher|
|Hypertension stage 3||180 or higher||120 or higher|
How to Treat Hypertension?
Hypertension needs proper treatment, care and attention. Doctors usually advise some lifestyle changes, diet, and exercise routine in order to bring the blood pressure back to normal. In case of a severe condition, use medicines prescribed by your doctor.
Change in Diet
Hypertensive patients need to be careful about what they eat. There are dedicated diet plans for such conditions, for example, the DASH diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet plan is carefully curated to bring down one’s blood pressure levels.
Learn more about what food you should add to your high blood pressure diet.
Here’s a list of food you should limit if you have high blood pressure:
- Sodium-rich or salty food
- Alcoholic drinks
- Red meat /cured meats
- Processed food
- Food that contains added sugar like packaged juices, iced tea, ready-to-eat foods.
- Canned foods
Engaging in physical exercise every day in a consistent manner helps in regulating the blood flow in the body and in preventing high blood pressure.
Following a simple freehand exercise routine or aerobic workouts like jogging or brisk walking for 30 minutes, 5-6 days a week can bring down the blood pressure levels up to 8 mm Hg.
If the blood pressure level is too high, there are several medications available on the market including:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE)
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB)
- Alpha agonists
- Calcium channel blockers
Blood pressure treatment can vary depending upon age and other health conditions. Depending on your specific condition, your doctor may put you on a combination of medicines including some from the above list. Do consult your doctor and take/stop the prescribed medicines as directed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the main cause of hypertension?
A. The cause of hypertension is hard to identify. Hypertension or high blood pressure can trickle down generations as a hereditary condition, or can also develop as an effect of other underlying health conditions.
Q. What are the four stages of hypertension?
A. High blood pressure is commonly categorised into four stages – Elevated BP, Hypertension stage 1, Hypertension stage 2, Hypertension stage 3 or Hypertensive crisis. Refer to the table above to know more.
Q. Can hypertension be cured?
A. Hypertension can be regulated through proper diet, exercise, and medicines. It is advised to consult a doctor to evaluate your condition and follow the prescribed instructions in order to treat hypertension properly.
Q. How do you feel when your blood pressure is high?
A. Very high blood pressure might show a few signs. You might experience shortness of breath, dizziness, buzzing ears, nausea, headache, etc if your BP reaches hypertensive levels.
Q. How serious is hypertension?
A. Hypertension is a major contributing factor to cardiovascular diseases like stroke, heart attack, etc. that take 17.9 million lives each year. Hence, it is imperative that hypertension needs adequate attention.
Q. Is Hypertension a heart problem?
A. Hypertension simply means high blood pressure, and it is one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases or heart problems.
Q. Do bananas lower blood pressure?
A. Banana has high potassium content which is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Including at least one banana in your diet will be a wise choice to help bolster your hypertension treatment.
Q. What is normal blood pressure by age?
A. The latest guidelines released by the American Health Association and multiple other international health organisations have set 130/80 mm Hg as the floor level of hypertension for all adults.