HYPERTESION ~ THE SILENT DESTROYER (Part 2)
We mentioned in the first part of this article that hypertension is a disease that is easy to diagnose but most often goes unnoticed till it has caused a bigger problem. In this second part, we will show you how it can be detected, and what you do about it once detected.
But first, to show how bad it could get if not detected on time, we give below some true cases seen some years back in a semi urban setting in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria where the writer works. Similar cases are reported in medical journals world over.
Timi (not the real name), was a very playful boy of about 10 years old. His father, a low income earner, worked tirelessly to raise money for his education but the boy preferred to play football. The father got so angry one morning, brought out the cane, raised it and was about whipping the boy when he suddenly collapsed and was rushed to the clinic. He was found to have become paralyzed on the right arm and the right leg. The blood pressure was very high. He had a stroke.
Mrs. E. A. was a successful business woman. She had a shop where she sells ladies fashion accessories which she used to get from Dubai. For a period of time, she had been having weakness and shortness of breath. She started noticing swelling on her two feet and slight tightness over her epigastric region. The breathlessness was worse on lying down. She then went to the hospital were her blood pressure was found to be high and her heart was found to be enlarged. She was diagnosed with Hypertensive Heart Failure.
The two cases given above, though having different presentations and different pathophysiology nevertheless have one thing in common. Both patients had undetected high blood pressure which had persisted for quite some time leading to the situation in which they eventually found themselves.
So how do we know we have it?
The only way is by measuring our blood pressure.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) by definition implies measurement of a pressure level. So, a visit to the nearest Clinic or Health Centre is needed where the health personnel will measure your blood pressure and tell you if it is high or not. If you can afford it, (and I highly recommend this) you can get yourself a digital sphygmomanometer (or just sphyg for short). This has the advantage of allowing you to do it yourself on a regular basis and recording the readings which you then present to your doctor during your next visit. Or arranging a visit if you find a high reading.
Although hypertension is symptomless in most cases, extreme blood pressure could have any of the following symptoms associated:
Tinnitus (Ringing in the ear)
What is normal blood pressure?
This was a very easy question to answer in years gone by. But recent studies have thrown more light on this subject and the answer is not so clear cut as we thought it to be. However, simply put, any blood pressure with a systole of 140mmHg or less and a diastole of less than 90mmHg is regarded as normal. Usually written as 140/90mmHg. I will stick to this simple definition of normal blood pressure for the sake of this article; and as a simplified generalization, I will say that any figure obtained higher than the figures given above should be reported to your physician who is in the position to give a definite opinion and handle you professionally.
Types of Blood Pressure Apparatus
Three main types of sphygmomanometers are commonly used. They are illustrated below.
The digital sphygs are becoming more popular as they are very easy to use. Some store up to 100 readings with time and date for easy reference. It is recommended that a family should have at least one of these for routine checks.
What to do if readings are high.
See your doctor as soon as practicable so that he can cross check and arrive at a diagnosis. If he confirms that there is hypertension, he will probably advice on a low salt diet and possibly put you on medication. There are many types of medication to lower blood pressure and these drugs do so by various means. Some lower the pressure by removing fluids from the system. Some work by reducing the tone in the blood vessels, some work on the calcium channel mechanism, while some directly antagonize chemicals that elevate blood pressure. Your doctor will know which is best to prescribe for you.
Risk factors in Hypertension **
Although the cause of hypertension or blood pressure is often unknown, Hypertension has many risk factors that can increase the chance of developing the condition. Many diseases have important risk factors, and hypertension is no exception.
Hypertension or high blood pressure risk factors include:
Through early middle age, hypertension is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop hypertension after menopause.
•Obesity or Being overweight.
People with overweight are more likely than others to develop hypertension.
The African Americans and people of African heritage who have never left the African continent are more likely to develop high blood pressure, because hypertension is particularly common among blacks. Serious complications from hypertension are also more common in black people.
•Family history of hypertension.
If your parents have or had hypertension, you have a greater chance of having high blood pressure too. The chance is higher than someone with no family history of hypertension.
•Using tobacco or Smoking.
The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls and causing your arteries to narrow, and may raise your blood pressure.
•Use of oral contraceptives.
According to some report, many women are prone to high blood pressure when taking “the pill.”
•Heavy alcohol consumption.
People with alcohol problems also tend to have hypertension. Heavy drinking can lead to heart disease, harm the liver and brain.
•High salt diet.
If you are taking foods or meals that high in sodium (Na), It can cause your body to retain fluid which increases the blood pressure.
High levels of stress can increase your blood pressure, but this will usually return to normal once the stress is over.
Knowing the risk factors and avoiding them as much as possible help to prevent development of the condition. And more importantly, having a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in helping to avoid hypertension to some degree.
Complications of Hypertension
The diagram below courtesy of hypertensions-care.blogspot.com helps to illustrate some complications of hypertension
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