High blood pressure (hypertension) – Symptoms and causes

Hypertension

Overview

Hypertension (High blood pressure) is a health condition that is widely prevalent among people. We may have commonly heard of “high blood pressure” from our family or friend circles. It may sound like a common health condition and has nothing to worry about. 

But reality says otherwise. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hypertension is one of the most important causes of premature deaths all over the world. Studies show that 57% of stroke deaths and 24% of coronary heart disease deaths are directly linked to hypertension.

It is now clear that hypertension is one of the major health burdens that paves the way for the onset of other chronic diseases. Hence it is inevitable for us to learn about the health condition that is commonly prevailing around us. 

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force exerted by blood in your body against the walls of arteries and major blood vessels. 

Blood pressure is determined by two means:

  • Systolic pressure: It is the amount of pressure in your arteries when the heartbeats. 

Blood pressure readings are given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and it usually comes in two numbers. The first number represents the systolic pressure whereas the second number represents diastolic pressure. 

If your pressure readings exceed the normal limits, it is termed hypertension. 

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

One of the dangerous aspects of hypertension is that you may not know its symptoms unless and until it is severe. Most people with hypertension don’t show any sort of symptoms. Because of this, hypertension is known as the ‘silent killer.’

But it is easy to find out whether you have high blood pressure. Doctors usually check your blood pressure using a device named Sphygmomanometer, otherwise called a BP monitor. 

Yet, some of the commonly prevailing hypertension symptoms are:

  • Nosebleed
  • Severe headaches
  • Lack of clarity in vision
  • Chest pain
  • Increased heart rates
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pounding in your neck, chest, ears
  • Profuse sweating

What are the common causes of hypertension?

The two different types of hypertensions are:

  • Primary hypertension: It is also called essential hypertension. This type of hypertension develops in adults over a period of time without any specific cause. 
  • Secondary hypertension: Hypertension caused by some other health condition or practice is called secondary hypertension. This increases blood pressure dramatically and leads to many health issues. 

Some common hypertension causes include:

  • Kidney diseases
  • Thyroid problems
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Congenital defects in blood vessels

Some lifestyle practices that give rise to hypertension include:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines
  • Some medications such as birth control pills, pain relievers, etc.

What are the risk factors of hypertension?

Hypertension is attributed to several risk factors including the following:

  • Age: As you age, there are a plethora of reasons that give rise to high blood pressure, especially primary hypertension. Commonly, women tend to develop high blood pressure over the age of 65 years.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of hypertension, you are at risk of inheriting it. However, there is no clear pattern to understand how this condition gets transferred through genes. 
  • Obesity: As your body weight increases, the blood flow will also increase to supply oxygen to your tissues. This in turn increases the pressure in your artery walls and leads to hypertension. 
  • Consuming too much salt: Common salt is nothing but sodium chloride. When you consume excess sodium, your body will retain fluids that naturally increase the pressure. 
  • Consuming too little potassium: Potassium is essential for your effective heart function. It balances the amount of sodium in your body. If you lose too much potassium due to dehydration or consume too little potassium, the amount of sodium will increase and lead to hypertension. 

What is the connection between stress and hypertension?

It is common to see that people with high blood pressure have increased stress. This can also work backwards, i.e.., stressful situations give rise to hypertension. 

Although there are no conclusive studies that show that stress leads to long-term hypertension, it does give rise to steep spikes in blood pressure.

When you’re under stress, your body releases hormones and narrows your blood vessels. This temporarily amplifies your blood pressure. 

Stress also leads to hypertension indirectly, based on your reaction to stressful situations. People tend to overcome stress by drinking alcohol, smoking and eating unhealthy foods. 

These habits increase your blood pressure and lead to hypertension. It also works backward. When your blood pressure increases, stress is one of the effects that you may experience. 

Stress and hypertension can put you in a vicious cycle. You may need to undergo certain lifestyle changes to break this pattern. 

What are some common hypertension complications?

High blood pressure has the potential to damage your blood vessels and arteries, thus, in turn, damaging your vital organs as well. Some hypertension complications are as follows:

  • Heart attack 
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Narrowed or weakened blood vessels in the kidney
  • Damaged blood vessels in eyes
  • Aneurysm
  • Memory related complications
  • Dementia

Apart from these health problems, hypertension also leads to certain psychological conditions like increased anger, anxiety, losing control of your mind, etc. 

How to prevent and manage hypertension?

Hypertension, though widely prevailing, can be controlled, prevented, and managed by making some lifestyle changes. 

  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption
  • Doing workouts to lose bodyweight
  • By practicing workouts such as aerobics and cardio
  • Reduce the intake of sodium in food. You can do this by reducing the use of salt in your food
  • Get ample amount of sound sleep
  • Practice meditation and breathing exercises
  • Limit the intake of excessive fats and trans fats

Apart from these lifestyle practices, hypertension is also managed in medical ways. Your doctor will usually check your blood pressure when you go for any health condition. Based on the severity of the blood pressure, your doctor will suggest some hypertension treatments.

If you have long-term hypertension, your doctor may prescribe certain hypertension medications you need to take regularly. Your doctor will also recommend periodic visits every 3 to 6 months for a check-up. 

Can I get health insurance coverage for hypertension?

Hypertension, being one of the common health conditions, is covered under most health insurance policies, but after a certain waiting period, as it comes under the category of pre-existing diseases.

For example, many health insurance policies cover this health condition after a waiting period of 48 months.

It means that any medical expenses that you may incur regarding hypertension will be covered after 48 months from the date of purchasing your health insurance policy.

In Star Health Insurance, many policies offer a reduced waiting period. Some policies offer a waiting period of 12 months. They are:

If you live in rural areas, there is a dedicated health insurance plan named Star Micro Rural and Farmers Care Insurance Policy that covers hypertension after 6 months.

To sum up

Due to its lack of symptoms, hypertension may seem like a non-threatening health condition. But it poses an imminent danger to your vital organs and may lead to some other chronic diseases. 

Studies show that non-communicable diseases will burden India due to lifestyle changes. Many of them can be directly and indirectly attributed to hypertension. 

By following the necessary lifestyle changes and timely checkups, the threat of hypertension can be highly minimised.

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