Arterial hypertension is a chronic pathology characterized by a continuous increase in blood pressure. It is a potentially serious silent disease directly related to coronary heart disease, vascular accidents, heart failure or renal failure. It has a high prevalence with more than one third of the population affected, being the main reason for medical consultation in the world.
There are two types of hypertension:
- Primary hypertension, which is that suffered by most adults for which there is no directly identifiable cause.
- Secondary hypertension, which is caused by an underlying disease such as kidney disease, sleep apnea, adrenal gland tumors, thyroid problems or the use of certain medications, among others.
In addition to the above, arterial hypertension can be favored by multiple risk factors:
- In most cases it develops in adults and its incidence increases as the years go by.
- It is more common in men until menopause, when the risk is reversed.
- Ethnic origin. It is more common in people of African descent, with a higher rate of complications.
- Overweight or obesity.
- Lack of physical activity
- Tobacco consumption not only increases blood pressure, but its compounds can damage vessel walls, increasing the risk of complications.
- Diet high in sodium.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Certain chronic diseases, such as sleep apnea or chronic kidney disease.
Arterial hypertension is a complex, hereditary, multifactorial and polygenic disease resulting from the interaction between environmental and genetic risk factors. Despite the many studies carried out, the role of genetics in blood pressure is not entirely clear. An association study carried out by the UK biobank on more than 93000 patients and some 360000 controls led to the identification of more than 250 susceptibility loci, which, according to the authors, could explain up to a third of the heritability of the condition. Among the genes identified, the FGF5, which is heavily involved in cell cycle regulation, and INSR, a gene coding for the insulin receptor, stood out.
Most people with hypertension are unaware that they are hypertensive, since the disease, in most cases, is not accompanied by obvious symptoms. Therefore, it is highly recommended to evaluate blood pressure periodically.
Occasionally there may be some mild symptoms such as headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heartbeat or visual disturbances. Among the possible complications that can occur due to sustained high blood pressure are:
- Angina pectoris.
- Myocardial infarction due to obstruction of blood flow to the heart.
- Cardiac and/or renal failure.
- Aneurysms, with the consequent risk of rupture.
- Irregular heart rhythm.
Arterial hypertension is a controllable pathology in most cases. The most important lifestyle habits to prevent it are:
- Maintain a healthy diet, limiting the amount of sodium (salt) and alcohol.
- Regular physical activity.
- Maintain a healthy weight, avoiding obesity and overweight.
- Stop smoking. Smoking causes damage to blood vessels and increases the risk of high blood pressure. In addition, it can worsen health problems related to hypertension.
- Control stress and learn how to manage it.
The more lifestyle changes you make, the more likely you are to lower your blood pressure and avoid the health problems associated with high blood pressure.
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UK Biobank Database. Hypertension, Data-Field 20002 [Version Feb-2022].