High blood pressure or hypertension is a medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is chronically high. Hypertension is of two types, namely, primary or essential hypertension and secondary hypertension. Most of the cases (90–95%) are of primary hypertension whereas 5 to 10% of cases are of secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension occurs due to lifestyle or genetic factors while the reasons for secondary hypertension are chronic kidney disease, endocrine disorders, atherosclerosis of renal arteries, use of birth control pills, etc.
Understanding the problem
An immediate rise in the blood pressure levels does not show any symptoms. However, if blood pressure is consistently high, risk develops for coronary artery disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, vision loss, heart failure, or chronic kidney disease.
Blood pressure is measured at two points- the systolic and diastolic pressures, which are the maximum and minimum pressures respectively. Systolic blood pressure is the point when the heart contracts and diastolic when the heart relaxes.
Normal systolic blood pressure is in the range of 100–140 mm Hg and normal diastolic blood pressure varies between 60 to 90 mm Hg.
High blood pressure or hypertension is present if the resting blood pressure is at or above 140/90 mm Hg for adults. Different numbers apply to children.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
In neonates and young infants, hypertension is associated with failure to thrive, seizures, irritability, lack of energy, and difficulty in breathing. Later these hypertensive babies may develop headaches, irritability, fatigue, failure to thrive, blurred vision, nosebleeds, or facial paralysis.
Following are common symptoms of primary hypertension:
- Headache (at back of the head)
- Light headedness
- Tinnitus (buzzing or hissing in the ears)
- Altered vision. On physical examination by ophthalmoscope, changes may be found in optic fundus (hypertensive retinopathy) whose severity varies from grades I to IV
- Fainting episodes
Secondary Hypertension that occurs due to diseases like Cushing’s syndrome has symptoms such as moon face, truncal obesity, a hump of fat behind the neck/shoulder, glucose intolerance, or purple abdominal stretch marks.
In Hyperthyroidism, secondary hypertension develops along with weight loss. Additional symptoms such increased appetite, tachycardia, bulging eyes, and tremor also develop.
Renal artery stenosis (RAS) may be associated with secondary hypertension with localised abdominal bruit.
In Coarctation meaning narrowing of short section of the aorta, there is high blood pressure in arms along with relatively decreased blood pressure in the lower extremities of arms due to delayed or absent femoral arterial pulses.
A lifestyle disorder that is spreading fast across all age groups!
The World Health Organisation estimates that currently, 600 million people with high blood pressure are suffering from the risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiac failure.
Hypertension is estimated to cause 7.1 million deaths worldwide, which is around 13 percent of the total global fatality. Out of 7.1 million, 5 million deaths are premature. Research suggests that about 62% of all strokes and about 49% of all heart attacks are triggered by hypertension.
A study stated that the prevalence of hypertension will increase to 1.56 billion by the year 2025. In India the situation is no less grim. Cardiovascular diseases caused 2.3 million deaths in India in the year 1990 and this is projected to double by the year 2020.
The rate at which hypertension is rising is steep – around 20-40% annually. One in every three adults suffers from hypertension in India.
As many as 20% of the Indian youth suffer from hypertension with a very high growth rate. Current estimates show that incidence of hypertension is 20 to 40 percent in urban areas and 12 to 17 percent in rural areas.
However, the bigger risk is that almost 60% of the people who suffer from hypertension are not aware of it.
To cease the growth of Hypertension and prevent it from getting fatal, we will have to keep a check on our lifestyle and eating habits. We will have to understand and recognise the symptoms and thus do our bit to eradicate hypertension.
In our future posts, we will share Ayurvedic health tips, foods, and lifestyle practices to counter hypertension in a natural way. Stay tuned!