What is hypertension and why is it important to be aware of its symptoms?

What is hypertension and why is it important to be aware of its symptoms?

High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the major challenge of modern living which manifests itself in a variety of ways. It may be a side effect of other systemic diseases or may be brought on oneself by the tensions and pressures of life.

What is hypertension and why is it important to be aware of its symptoms? Hypertension has an arbitrary definition  which is  based on levels of blood pressure which are  specific for different age groups. It means that a certain range of blood pressure reading may be normal for a higher age group and at the same time be alarming for the young ones. What is important is that after the age of 30 years all individuals should get their blood pressure checked at regular intervals. This is imperative to keep a check on major fluctuations which may become a threat in times of stress or otherwise and also to be aware of any impending health risk.

Exercise, anxiety, unfamiliar surroundings, work pressure may all lead to a transient increase in blood pressure. In such cases measurement should be made repeatedly in relaxed conditions for proper assessment of the person’s actual condition. It is important to remember that for transient rise in blood pressure, medicines may not be administered but they are potential candidates of hypertension who should be closely monitored for warning signs and symptoms.

It is frequently asked if hypertension runs in families. In the majority of patients with hypertension, no underlying mechanism may be found to be responsible for the high blood pressure. These cases are called ‘Essential hypertensives’. This condition is familial. In 70% of these cases another member of the family is found to be affected. Hence the role of genes cannot be denied in the development of this health problem.  Some races also are more susceptible to this disease. American blacks and the Japanese tend to have a higher incidence of essential hypertension. It is commoner where there is a higher intake of salt.

What symptoms should make us wary of developing this disease? There are no specific symptoms attributable to hypertension. It may be detected during routine examination or because of one of its complications. Headache and palpitations are some of the frequently encountered symptoms. Chronic backache, prolonged fever and breathlessness may also be clues to this disease.  It is also closely associated with obesity, smoking and high levels of cholesterol.

Can hypertension be prevented from developing? Though genetic factors are beyond our control, there are some steps which could be taken to prevent this disease or at least to lessen its intensity. Diet modification is extremely important. Table salt and foods with high sodium intake are an absolute no. Excessive alcohol consumption is detrimental for blood pressure and should only be taken in moderation. Alcohol, obesity and hypertension go hand in hand and should be tackled vigorously.

Life style modification remains the mainstay of treatment. Regular exercise, healthy diet, relaxation techniques can go a long way in keeping this problem under control. Once a person becomes hypertensive, he should be under close supervision of a physician who may titrate the dose as per the requirement and response of the patient to the medicines. It is inadvisable to discontinue the medicines without thorough medical check up. No age is immune hence we should be careful right from the beginning.