High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)- Causes, Risk Factors & Prevention

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)- Causes, Risk Factors & Prevention

Doctor checking blood pressure

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in the world and the incidences of these diseases are increasing day by day as a result of modernization and shift in lifestyle and among the cardiovascular diseases, Hypertension is the most common.

What is blood pressure?

It is the pressure exerted by the blood present in your arteries against the walls of the artery. The amount of blood your heart pumps out and the resistance offered by the vessels determines it, the resistance we speak of here is similar to the resistance offered by wires to electricity, which means the narrower your arteries, the more the resistance to the flow of blood and higher the pressure. 

What happens when you have high blood pressure? What are the symptoms?

Initially, there are no symptoms. But as the disease progresses, it leads to a number of complications like coronary artery disease, heart failure, kidney failure, etc. Hypertension is usually diagnosed during a routine check-up and not as a result of complaints.

What causes hypertension?

In the primary type of hypertension, there is no determined cause. A person’s lifestyle is mainly responsible for the progression of primary hypertension. Drinking, smoking, and diet plays can lead to the progression of the disease.

A secondary type of hypertension is due to underlying diseases such as kidney problems, thyroid problems, adrenal gland tumors (very rare), or use of drugs such as cocaine or amphetamine, popularly known as the study drug.

How often should you get BP checked?

If you are above the age of 40/ if you’ve already been diagnosed with high BP, every 3-4 months or at every hospital visit would be ideal, if you are between 30 to 40, at least once in 6 months and below 30, once a year. 

What is a normal BP to have?

Anything above 140/90 mm hg is considered high and anything below 90/60 mm hg is considered low.

  • Normal – Less than 130/85 – 90
  • High normal – 130-140/90
  • Mild (stage 1) – 140-159/90-99
  • Moderate (stage 2) – 159-  179/100-110
  • Severe (stage 3) – greater than 180/110 

RISK FACTORS FOR HYPERTENSION

  1. NON MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS
  • AGE – As the age increases, the added effect of the environment and “wear and tear” causes an increase in the prevalence of high BP.
  • GENDER – In the middle age group, hypertension is more common in men, but as the age increases, it is more common in women after menopause (when your period stops) because of hormonal changes and the effect it has on the heart.
  • GENETICS – There is no genetic marker observed, but it has been noticed that if both parents are hypertensive, offspring has a 45% chance of being hypertensive, this could be attributed to the lifestyle followed by the family as well. 

2. MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS

  • PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – A sedentary, lazy, non-active lifestyle increases your BP levels.
  • OBESITY – Greater weight, higher the chances of getting hypertension and other health issues like clogging your arteries (known as atherosclerosis, etc.
  • DIET – Food rich in saturated fat or LDL (low-density lipids), high salt intake, alcohol, and red meat – pork, lamb, beef, etc are considered bad for the heart
    Dietary fiber, present in vegetables and fruits, and food rich in potassium(such as bananas) are considered good for heart health.
  • OCCUPATION – professions or individuals having high-stress levels predispose to high BP due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the release of noradrenaline 
  • SMOKING – This is an avoidable habit that significantly affects various organs, in arteries, it can cause plaque build-up, medically known as atherosclerosis, and increases the clotting of blood which causes an increase in blood pressure.

3. Diabetes is a major risk factor for hypertension. 

4. Oral contraceptives– use of oral contraceptives over a long period of time also increases the risk of hypertension. 

How Can One Avoid Hypertension?

  1. DIETARY CHANGES
  • Reduce salt intake to less than 5g per day 
  • Moderate fat intake, no animal fats, a vegetarian diet has shown a cardioprotective effect.
  • Reduce/ stop alcohol intake
  • Avoid overeating
  • Diet should mainly consist of fruits and vegetables 
  • Avoid saturated fats.
  • Olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) and Omega 3 and Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) containing substances like safflower oil and fish oils are good for heart health.
  • Choose whole grains over white flour, i.e whole grain bread, etc.
  • Potassium-rich food like bananas, spinach, etc 
  • Avoid overeating.

2. WEIGHT REDUCTION/ EXERCISES FOR HYPERTENSION

A combination of the above diet along with physical exercises will target weight loss. The preferred exercises to be done are

  • walking,
  • jogging,
  • cycling,
  • dancing.

3. STRESS REDUCTION AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES.

At an individual level, one needs to take care of his/her heart not only literally but also figuratively. In the modern world, it’s nearly impossible to be completely stress-free, however, one can undertake methods that will reduce the stress levels.

Try to build habits such as: 

  • Indulge in yoga and meditation.
  • Avoiding caffeine and sugar.
  • Do exercises that increase endorphins.
  • Take a break once in a while and build hobbies that help in relaxation.

Still, have questions? Drop a comment and our cardiology expert will get back to you with an answer.

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