Risk Factors For Hypertension
Blood Pressure refers to the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the blood vessels (mainly the arteries) due to the pressure generated in the ventricles during ventricular contraction and relaxation. The unit for measuring B.P. is “mm of Hg”. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm of Hg or 110/70 mm of Hg. The upper blood pressure value 120 mm of Hg is the systolic pressure i.e. the highest blood pressure in the major arteries during ventricular contraction. The lower blood pressure value 80 mm of Hg is the diastolic blood pressure i.e. the lowest blood pressure in the arteries during ventricular relaxation.
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension refers to - Systolic pressure above 140 mm of Hg and diastolic pressure above 85 mm of Hg. However, even borderline high B.P., i.e., higher than 120/80 is a matter of concern and the nutritional and lifestyle guidelines must be followed to reduce B.P. back to normal.
The symptoms of high blood pressure include headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision or nosebleeds.
What are the causes of high blood pressure?
• High blood pressure can be caused by genetic factors like family history of high blood pressure.
• Ageing and lack of exercise results in poor blood circulation and thinning of walls of blood vessels. Due to age-related deterioration, there is a decrease in elasticity and increase in stiffness of the blood vessels causing high blood pressure.
• High stress and other catabolic factors (such as lack of sleep), especially over a long period of time leads to increase in heart rate, weakening of the heart and narrowing of blood vessels. This causes high blood pressure and also damages blood vessels.
• Gender is another reason. The risk is greater for men than women but after menopause the difference decreases.
• Excess blood weight and high body fat levels can also lead to and is a high risk factor for high blood pressure.
• Smoking or high intake of caffeine or other stimulants can also lead to increase in heart rate and cause high blood pressure.
• Atherosclerosis, blockage in an artery often due to high cholesterol levels causes obstruction to the blood flow, which leads to high blood pressure.
• High blood pressure can also be a result of other medical conditions such as kidney problems, diabetes, sleep apnea, hormone issues such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome and hyperaldosteronism (increase in aldosterone).
• Certain medications may also cause high blood pressure such as anti-inflammatory drugs, certain anti-depressants and certain oral contraceptive pills.
• Dehydration could also worsen an existing high blood pressure problem by increasing the thickness of the blood.
• High intake of sodium such as high sodium foods like meats and processed foods may lead to increase in blood volume causing high blood pressure.
• Decrease in potassium intake such as low intake of high potassium foods like fruits and vegetables can also lead to increase in heart rate and high blood pressure.
It is also essential to know the negative effects of high blood pressure and recognize the symptoms along with the causes of high blood pressure.
• High blood pressure leads to damage of the arteries and blood vessels leading to narrowing of arteries and formation of blockages. Blockages or clot formation in arteries may further increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or gangrene in the legs. High B.P. may also weaken the artery walls leading to risk of rupture or haemorrhage.
• High B.P. increases the stress on the heart to pump against the high pressure of blood in the arteries. Hence due to high pressure, the cardiac muscles fatigue easily leading to a weaker heart.
• High B.P. may also result in damage of vital organs such as kidney, brain and eye due to rapid wear and tear of cells.
• High blood pressure may also lead to problems in sexual function in both men and women due to reduced blood supply to the penis and vagina respectively.
Hypertension or high blood pressure is the most common public health problem and often referred to as a silent killer. If untreated, it can lead to a major health set back and cause many complications. If you are at risk for high blood pressure due to the factors mentioned above, ensure you make lifestyle choices in time and consult a doctor for advice on preventive measures at the earliest.
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