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Hypertension - A Condition Not to Be Ignored

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Hypertension - A Condition Not to Be Ignored

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High blood pressure or hypertension is commonly overlooked or ignored, as it does not cause any symptoms in the early stages. Read the article to find out more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At October 8, 2019
Reviewed AtJanuary 22, 2024

Introduction:

Hypertension, as we know, is commonly defined as systolic blood pressure of more than or equal to 140 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure of more than or equal to 90 mmHg. Hypertension in India is increasing at an alarming rate due to the rapidly changing lifestyle and dietary habits. This condition is commonly ignored, resulting in an increase in medical emergencies and the number of deaths.

Understanding Blood Pressure Readings:

The normal blood pressure should be around 120/80 mmHg.

  • Systolic Pressure: This is the upper value indicating the pressure in the arteries as the heart pumps blood.

  • Diastolic Pressure: The lower value indicates the pressure in the arteries between two heartbeats.

How Does Hypertension Affect Different Parts of the Body?

  1. Artery-Related Damage: The pressure of blood passing through the arteries rises with elevated blood pressure over time. This could result in

  • Arteries Damaged and Constricted: Elevated blood pressure has the potential to harm the inner lining of the arteries. Food-derived lipids can build up in the injured arteries when they reach the bloodstream. The arterial walls lose some of their elasticity over time. This restricts the body's ability to receive blood.

  • Aneurysm: Over time, a portion of the arterial wall may bulge due to the continuous pressure of blood passing through a compromised artery. A ruptured aneurysm has the potential to result in potentially fatal internal hemorrhaging. Any artery can develop an aneurysm. However, the aorta, the body's biggest artery, is where they are most frequently found.

2. Cause Damage to the Heart: Numerous heart problems, including the following, can be brought on by high blood pressure:

  • Heart Artery Disease: The arteries that feed blood to the heart can become narrowed and damaged by high blood pressure. Coronary artery disease is the name given to this injury. Angina, or pain in the chest, can result from insufficient blood supply to the heart. Arrhythmias, or abnormal cardiac rhythms, may result from it. Or a heart attack may result from it.

  • Failure of Heart: Heart strain is caused by high blood pressure. This may eventually result in the heart muscle stiffening or weakening and impairing its normal function. The overburdened heart gradually begins to fail.

  • Left Heart Enlargement: The heart must work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body when blood pressure is high. The result is an enlargement and thickening of the left ventricle, the heart's lower left chamber. A thicker and larger left ventricle increases heart attack and heart failure risk. Additionally, it raises the chance of sudden cardiac death, which is the sudden stopping of the heart's beating.

  • Syndrome of Metabolism: The risk of metabolic syndrome is increased by high blood pressure. This syndrome is a collection of illnesses that have the potential to cause diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. High blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol—the "good" cholesterol—and excess body fat around the waist are the factors that make up metabolic syndrome.

3. Brain Damage: For the brain to function properly, it needs a healthy blood supply. The following are some possible effects of high blood pressure on the brain:

  • Attack of Transient Ischemia (TIA): This is sometimes referred to as a ministroke. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is caused by a brief blockage of blood flow to a portion of the brain. TIAs can be brought on by blood clots or hardened arteries as a result of excessive blood pressure. TIAs frequently indicate the impending onset of a major stroke.

  • Stroke: A stroke is caused by a portion of the brain receiving insufficient oxygen and nourishment. Alternatively, bleeding within or around the brain may cause it to occur. These issues lead to the death of brain cells. High blood pressure can cause blood vessels to narrow, burst, or leak. Blood clots can also form in the arteries that supply the brain due to high blood pressure. The clots increase the risk of stroke by obstructing blood flow.

  • Dementia: Narrowed or clogged arteries may restrict the brain's blood supply. This may result in vascular dementia, a specific kind of dementia. Vascular dementia can also result from a single stroke or a series of small strokes that stop blood flow to the brain.

  • Mild Cognitive Impairment: This illness is characterized by slightly greater difficulties with thinking, memory, or language compared to other individuals in the age group. But unlike dementia, the changes are not significant enough to affect day-to-day activities. A slight cognitive impairment may result from high blood pressure.

4. Damage to the Kidneys: The ability of the kidneys to effectively filter waste from circulation is compromised by damaged blood vessels. This permits waste and fluid levels to accumulate to unsafe levels. Kidney failure is a dangerous ailment that occurs when the kidneys are unable to function adequately on their own. Kidney transplantation or dialysis are possible forms of treatment. One of the most frequent causes of renal failure is high blood pressure.

5. Damage to the Eyes: Elevated blood pressure can harm the minuscule, vulnerable blood vessels that feed the eyes with blood, leading to

  • Retinopathy is the term for damage to the retina's blood vessels. The layer of light-sensing cells at the back of the eye is called the retina. Vision loss, blurred vision, and eye bleeding can all result from damage to the blood vessels in the retina. The chance of developing retinopathy increases when diabetes and high blood pressure coexist.

  • Oxygen accumulation beneath the retina is commonly known as choroidopathy. This illness may cause blurred vision or, sometimes, scarring that deteriorates eyesight.

  • Optic neuropathy is another term for nerve injury. The optic nerve, responsible for transmitting light signals to the brain, can be harmed by blocked blood flow. Damage to the eye may result in hemorrhaging or loss of vision.

6. Sexual Conditions: Erectile dysfunction is the term for difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection. After the age of fifty, it becomes more and more common. However, the risk of erectile dysfunction is significantly higher in those who have excessive blood pressure. This is because restricted blood flow brought on by elevated blood pressure may prevent blood from reaching the penis. Blood flow to the vagina might be impeded by high blood pressure. Diminished blood supply to the vagina may result in decreased arousal or desire for sex, dry vagina, or difficulty experiencing orgasms.

7. Emergency Situations Involving High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure develops gradually, causing damage. However, there are instances when a sudden and severe increase in blood pressure signals a medical emergency. When this occurs, immediate medical attention is required, frequently in a hospital. In certain circumstances, hypertension may result in the following.

  • Blindness.

  • Ache in the chest.

  • Pregnancy complications, such as eclampsia or preeclampsia, are conditions associated with high blood pressure.

  • Heart attack.

  • Memory loss, altered personality, difficulty focusing, agitated mood, or progressive unconsciousness.

  • Severe injury to the aortic dissection, the body's major artery.

  • A stroke.

  • Abruptly compromised heart pumping causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs and dyspnea, also known as pulmonary edema.

  • Abrupt decline in renal function.

What Are the Types of Hypertension?

Based on the cause, hypertension can be divided into:

  • Primary Hypertension: Otherwise called essential hypertension, and the cause is unknown. Almost 95 percent of all hypertension cases are of this type.

  • Secondary Hypertension: When conditions affecting the kidneys, adrenal glands, and thyroid glands, or cancer, hormonal imbalance, high intake of salt, alcoholism, and a sedentary lifestyle result in high blood pressure, it is called secondary hypertension.

Primary and secondary hypertension—high blood pressure—can coexist. For instance, an additional secondary reason may exacerbate pre-existing high blood pressure. Patients may also have heard about intermittent hypertension in specific contexts. These kinds of hypertension are:

  • White Coat Hypertension: When one sees a doctor, the blood pressure is higher than at home.

  • Masked Hypertension: The blood pressure is raised at home but normal in a medical facility.

  • Chronic Hypertension: The blood pressure is raised at home and at medical facilities.

  • Nighttime Hypertension: While the patient sleeps, the blood pressure rises.

What Are the Causes of Hypertension?

Primary hypertension lacks a single, well-defined etiology. A confluence of factors usually causes it. Typical reasons include:

  • Unhealthy eating habits, such as a sodium-rich diet.

  • Absence of exercise.

  • High alcohol-containing beverage consumption.

Healthcare professionals can identify at least one distinct cause of secondary hypertension. The following are typical causes of secondary hypertension:

  • NSAIDs, immunosuppressants, and oral contraceptives (the pill) are a few examples of drugs.

  • Renal illness.

  • Apnea obstructive sleep.

  • Conn's syndrome, or primary aldosteronism.

  • Drug use for recreational purposes, including cocaine and amphetamines.

  • Illnesses known as renal vascular disorders impact blood flow in the veins and arteries of the kidneys. One frequent instance is renal artery stenosis.

  • Use of tobacco products (smokeless tobacco, vaping, and smoking).

What Are the Symptoms of Hypertension?

High blood pressure does not usually cause symptoms until it causes other complications. Thus, it is also called a "silent killer." It can take more than ten years for these symptoms to appear, and if left untreated, it can be fatal. The symptoms are:

  • Headaches.

  • Epistasis (nosebleed).

  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath).

  • Flushing.

  • Dizziness.

  • Shoulder and back pain.

  • Chest pain.

  • Blood in the urine.

  • Vision problems.

How to Diagnose Hypertension?

Blood pressure can be checked using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer. Only one high blood pressure reading is not used to diagnose this condition. A person is said to be hypertensive only if the blood pressure is elevated for most readings taken in a week. To rule out causes of hypertension, the doctor might suggest the patient get the following tests done:

  • ECG (Electrocardiogram): To monitor the heart function.

  • Renal Function Test: To check the functioning of the kidneys.

  • Blood Test: To check serum electrolytes, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

How to Treat Hypertension?

The common medicines used to treat hypertension are:

1. Diuretics: Chlorthalidone, Hydrochlorothiazide.

2. Beta-blockers: Atenolol, Acebutolol.

3. Angiotensin-converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors: Lisinopril, Captopril.

4. Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs): Candesartan, Losartan.

5. Alpha-beta Blockers: Carvedilol, Labetalol.

6. Renin-inhibitors: Aliskiren.

7. Calcium Channel Blockers: Amlodipine, Diltiazem.

8. Alpha-blockers: Doxazosin, Prazosin.

9. Aldosterone Antagonists: Spironolactone, Eplerenone.

What Are the Lifestyle Modifications to Be Made?

With various available medicines, high blood pressure can easily be controlled. Besides medicines, people should pay attention to the following lifestyle modification measures.

  • Stop smoking.

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily (walking, too is fine).

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Limit salt intake.

  • Meditate to reduce stress.

  • Limit the consumption of alcohol.

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Go for regular health check-ups with a physician.

What Are the Complications Associated With Hypertension?

Untreated hypertension can lead to:

Conclusion:

To prevent complications or diagnose hypertension early, one should get regular checkups and monitor their blood pressure levels at home. It is important to monitor the blood pressure levels in case of any major blood pressure fluctuations. One can even consult a cardiologist to control their blood pressure levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Why Is Hypertension Referred to as the Silent Killer?

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common condition wherein the blood flows under pressure through the blood vessels. It is known as the silent killer because people do not experience any symptoms, but it increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and congestive cardiac failure.

2.

What Complications Can Occur if Hypertension Is Left Untreated for a Long?

 
Though the patient remains asymptomatic in hypertension, the condition must not be ignored. This is because untreated hypertension can damage the blood vessels resulting in the accumulation of low-density lipoprotein or LDL. In addition, it can give rise to other diseases like diabetes, increase the risk of stroke and worsen the quality of life.

3.

Do People With Chronic Hypertension Live Long?

Chronic or long-standing hypertension is a matter of concern because it can have detrimental effects on vital body organs. However, people who consult their doctor regularly, take their suggested medications on time, and follow all the dietary and lifestyle modifications tend to live long.

4.

What Are Some of the Causes of Hypertension?

Hypertension occurs in one out of 20 patients due to underlying medical conditions. The other common causes of hypertension are listed below:
- Diabetes.
- Kidney diseases.
- Thyroid problems.
- Lupus.
- Scleroderma.
- Glomerulonephritis.

5.

Can Hypertension Be Treated Permanently?

Hypertension cannot be cured or treated permanently. However, the blood pressure can be kept under control using appropriate medications. In addition, people with mild hypertension can follow lifestyle modifications to bring their blood pressure under control.

6.

Will a Patient Remain Hypertensive Throughout His Life?

Hypertension is common among males due to several factors, including kidney diseases, diabetes, etc. One cannot get rid of hypertension completely, but the use of antihypertensive drugs, a healthy diet, and physical activities are the key treatment measures for hypertension.

7.

Is Hypertension a Mental Disorder?

Hypertension is not a mental disorder, but studies report that there is a strong connection between the two. Hypertensive patients are more likely to experience mood swings, anxiety, and depression than those with normal blood pressure.

8.

Is Hypertension a Common Condition?

Studies report that more than 700 million people have untreated hypertension. In addition, the incidence of hypertension has elevated from 650 million to 1.2 billion over the past few years. Hence, it can be regarded as a common condition.

9.

Can a Patient With Hypertension Feel Tired?

Hypertension does not produce any physical symptoms. However, some people complain of fatigue or tiredness because of the condition itself. In addition, if hypertension is left untreated for a long time, the patient can have other severe conditions.

10.

Can the Patient Have Hypertension Due to Insomnia?

Lack of sleep or insomnia is one of the risk factors for hypertension. This is because poor sleep gives rise to an unhealthy lifestyle and stress, which can elevate a person’s blood pressure. In addition, people who drink alcohol or smoke are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.

11.

What Are Some Foods That Increase Blood Pressure?

The food items that increase blood pressure are listed below:
- Table salt.
- Processed foods.
- Fast food or fried foods.
- Caffeine.
- Alcohol.
- Soda.
- Canned or frozen meals.
Dr. Amit Saklani
Dr. Amit Saklani

Radiotherapy

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