High blood pressure is a common condition characterized by abnormal excessive force of the blood against blood vessels known as arteries.
Hypertension on the other hand is defined as sustained high blood for long periods of time. Someone is diagnosed with hypertension when he/she has got a blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or more.
Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow the arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure.
One can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and the heart continues and can be detected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure generally develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.
High blood pressure has many risk factors, including: Old age, family history of hypertension, obesity, mental stress, alcoholism, smoking, pregnancy, chronic excessive salt intake
Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. A few people may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren’t specific and usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.
There are two types of high blood pressure.
Primary (essential) hypertension: For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure, and tends to develop gradually over many years.
Secondary hypertension: This is caused by an underlying condition. It tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including: Kidney problems, adrenal gland cancers, thyroid gland problems etc.
There are several classes of drugs used to control high blood pressure. In cases of secondary hypertension, treatment of the underlying cause is paramount.
There is a saying among doctors that “once hypertensive, always hypertensive”. This means that once diagnosed with hypertension, treatment given will lower the high pressures but if withdrawn, blood pressure will shoot up again. However, this is more accurate with primary (essential) hypertension. With secondary hypertension, once the underlying cause is treated, blood pressure will normalize provided the individual had no concurrent primary hypertension
Treatment with drugs is coupled with lifestyle modifications like;
- Cutting down salt intake to not more than a teaspoon per day
- Quitting smoking
- Moderate consumption of alcohol
- Regular physical exercise
- Proper mental stress management. Physical exercise also relieves stress
- Cutting down weight