Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is typically recorded as two numbers:
- Systolic pressure: The pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pumps blood into the circulation.
- Diastolic pressure: The pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats.
Normal blood pressure is typically considered to be around 120/80 mmHg. Hypertension is often defined as having a blood pressure consistently higher than 130/80 mmHg.
Hypertension is a significant risk factor for various health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other complications. It is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it usually presents with no symptoms in its early stages, but it can cause damage to blood vessels and organs over time.
There are two main types of hypertension:
- Primary (essential) hypertension: This type develops gradually over time and has no identifiable cause. It’s the most common type of hypertension, accounting for the majority of cases.
- Secondary hypertension: This type is caused by an underlying condition such as kidney disease, hormonal disorders, or the use of certain medications. Secondary hypertension tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure levels than primary hypertension.
Managing hypertension typically involves lifestyle modifications and, in some cases, medication. Lifestyle changes that can help manage hypertension include:
- Following a healthy diet low in sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol (such as the DASH diet).
- Engaging in regular physical activity.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Quitting smoking.
- Managing stress through relaxation techniques or counseling.
In cases where lifestyle changes alone are not sufficient to control blood pressure, various medications may be prescribed, including diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers, and others. The choice of medication depends on factors such as the severity of hypertension, presence of other medical conditions, and potential side effects.
It’s essential for individuals with hypertension to monitor their blood pressure regularly and work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan aimed at reducing the risk of complications and maintaining overall health.