Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a medical condition characterized by elevated blood pressure levels in the arteries. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps it throughout the body.
It is typically measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and consists of two numbers:
- Systolic Pressure: The higher number, representing the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pumps blood.
- Diastolic Pressure: The lower number, representing the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between beats.
A normal blood pressure reading is typically around 120/80 mm Hg. Hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure consistently measures 130/80 mm Hg or higher over a period of time.
Hypertension is often referred to as a “silent killer” because it usually does not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages but can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. Prolonged high blood pressure can damage the arteries, heart, brain, kidneys, and other organs, increasing the risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and vision problems.
There are two main types of hypertension:
- Primary Hypertension: This is the most common type and often develops gradually over time with no identifiable cause. It is influenced by factors such as genetics, lifestyle, diet, and age.
- Secondary Hypertension: This type is caused by an underlying medical condition or medication. Secondary hypertension can result from conditions such as kidney disease, hormonal disorders, or the use of certain medications.
Managing hypertension typically involves lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication. Lifestyle modifications may include dietary changes (reducing sodium intake, increasing potassium-rich foods), regular physical activity, weight management, stress reduction, and limiting alcohol and tobacco use.
Medications prescribed by a healthcare provider may include diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers, and others, depending on the specific needs of the individual.
Regular monitoring of blood pressure and adherence to treatment plans are crucial for controlling hypertension and reducing the risk of associated complications. Early detection and management are key to maintaining overall cardiovascular health. Individuals should work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a personalized plan for managing hypertension.