Hypertension is a chronic medical condition that affects one in three adults in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also called the silent killer, it is a condition where the blood pressure is abnormally elevated. In most of the cases, the condition takes years to develop, and people do not notice the symptoms initially. Most people find out about hypertension only when they suffer a heart attack or get a medical check-up done. Clyde Yancy, MD, chief of cardiology in Chicago, Illinois, says that hypertension is simply unavoidable as a person ages. As you hit the 55 age mark, you become 90% susceptible to hypertension. Moreover, sustained hypertension for a long period can put you at risk of coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease, stroke, and hypertensive heart disease.
The first culprit that instantly comes to mind when we mention hypertension is overeating salt. A diet high in salt content is responsible for approximately 20% to 40 % of cases of hypertension in the US, according to the Institute of Medicine. It has also been found that Americans consume 10 to 15 times more salt than they actually need. Salt makes your kidneys retain more water. Then, the stored water then builds pressure on your kidneys and increases the blood pressure. An alteration in sodium intake can work wonders for hypertension patients. Typically, you should limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day.
As you age, your chances of becoming a victim of hypertension increase. Due to natural hardening of the arteries, known as arteriosclerosis, with age, one experiences an increased blood pressure. Prevalence of the condition is quite common in people over 60. Two out of three people over the age of 75 are affected by hypertension. Even in individuals who do not have hypertension by age 60, their lifetime chances of developing the condition are a whopping 90%.
Heavy consumption of alcohol can elevate blood pressure to unhealthy levels. In a recent study in Japan, it has been found that alcohol consumption is a cause of higher blood pressure in 34.5% of men and 2.6% of women. It is imperative that a patient suffering from high blood pressure who is a drinker cut back their alcohol intake to normalize hypertension.
Family history is an important predictor of hypertension in any individual. Genetic factors contribute majorly to high blood pressure and related problems. The reason is likely that all the family members share a common environment and this adds to the risk. The chances can further increase when an individual with a family history of the condition rarely exercises or adopts unhealthy lifestyle practices. According to one study, it has been found that individuals who are physically fit and have a family history of hypertension are 34% less likely to suffer from hypertension themselves. Even a moderate amount of exercise can offer great health benefits.
Obesity is an established risk factor concerned with hypertension. A sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, and raised sodium levels can result in thickening of the arteries, and ultimately, high blood pressure. This can also vary from person to person. You can be overweight and still have normal blood pressure, while others who gain a little weight experience a dramatic increase in blood pressure. In such cases, ditch the processed foods and stuff your kitchen with healthy food items like nuts, eggs, grains, veggies, fish, and lean meats. You will witness a significant drop in your weight and blood pressure once you substitute processed food with a protein-rich diet.
Inactivity or lack of exercise doesn't only reflect in your waistline. It also increases your odds of developing hypertension. Inactive people also typically have higher heart rates. Daily physical activity can bring down your blood pressure by 6 to 8 mm Hg. You will need to work out consistently, for about 25 to 30 minutes each day, though. Irregularity in your workout regimen can result in increased blood pressure. Individuals with slightly high blood pressure can also benefit from exercise. Those already suffering from hypertension must adopt a regular fitness regimen to control their blood pressure and bring it to a safer zone. The best exercises for controlling hypertension are cycling, swimming, and walking. Strength training can be helpful as well.
One of the major causative factors for hypertension is stress. Stress can take a toll on your overall health and can spike your blood pressure abnormally. An increase in emotional tension creates a lot of pressure on the blood vessels, which is why it is important to stay calm and relaxed. Some of the common warning signs associated with stress are headaches, dizziness, lack of creativity, compulsive eating, forgetfulness, impulsive actions, anger, irritability, nervousness, and sadness. In such a fast-paced world, you must manage your stress level as it can put you at a higher risk of hypertension.
Everyone knows that smoking can have an adverse impact on the smoker as well as the passive (second hand) smoker. Not only does smoking raise blood pressure, but the harmful chemicals in the cigarette can also damage artery walls. The lining of your arteries can become thin, which may result in hypertension. Passive smoking can also raise blood pressure. Hypertension is most common amongst those who smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day. Hypertension patients should avoid smoking as it can also increase the chances of cardiovascular complications. Even after smoking cessation, your arteries may remain stiff for a long period.
Sleep apnea refers to a condition where an individual's breathing is disturbed while sleeping. During sleep, if the blood oxygen level drops drastically, it puts a strain on the heart and increases blood pressure. Typically obese people, men, and those over 40 years of age suffer from this condition the most. If this condition is left untreated, it can result in hypertension and in some cases heart failure.
Birth control pills, certain medicines, excessive intake of caffeinated drinks, chronic kidney disease, and thyroid problems are other causes of high blood pressure. These medical conditions change how the body handles sodium and fluids. Hypertension caused due to these medical conditions can make you feel depressed. Children might not be able to perform well in their studies and can have behavior problems. Some medicines like amphetamines can cause an increase in blood pressure.
Hypertension can go unnoticed and unrecognized for years, without any symptoms but pose great damage to your heart. Around 1% of individuals with the condition fail to seek medical care until it becomes severe, also called malignant hypertension. It is, therefore, important for individuals with hypertension to measure their high blood pressure from time to time.
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