High blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is a potentially serious illness that can cause coronary disease, cardiac insufficiency, cerebral accidents (stroke), kidney failure and other health problems. Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure increases and remains high long enough, it can cause many forms of damage to the body’s organism.
Close to one third of the adult population has high blood pressure and these numbers increase as the population ages. It is known that certain characteristics, illnesses and habits (known as risk factors) increase the probabilities of having high blood pressure, the most important being:
- Age: there is a significantly greater risk in men over 45 and in women over 55
- Gender: male
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Overweight or obesity
- Excessive salt and alcohol consumption
- Diet lacking in fruit and vegetables
- Lack of regular physical exercise
- Race: greater risk in Afro-Americans
- Certain illnesses such as chronic kidney disease, thyroid illness and sleep apnea
Generally, high blood pressure alone does not produce any signs or symptoms. At times, only a headache. Because it can be undetected for many years, frequently it is only diagnosed once problems resulting from it are experienced. Some common complications and their signs and symptoms include:
- Heart conditions: the heart can become enlarged or weakened leading to heart failure, an illness caused when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
- Aneurysms: an abnormal bulge that forms in the wall of an artery.
- Chronic kidney disease: When blood vessels narrow in the kidneys, possibly causing kidney failure.
- Artery disease: Atherosclerosis, a narrowing disease of the arteries, affecting blood flow and reducing blood circulation. This can lead to a heart attack, a stroke, or kidney failure.
- Eye damage: When blood vessels in the eyes burst or bleed. This can cause vision changes or blindness.
When blood pressure is normal, these important precautions can be taken to prevent hypertension:
- Follow a healthy diet, limiting sodium (salt) and alcohol
Get physical exercise regularly
- Keep a healthy weight; avoid being overweight or obese
- Quit smoking. Smoking causes damage to blood vessels and increases the risk of having high blood pressure, in addition to worsening the health problems related to hypertension
- Learn to control and manage stress
The more changes you make in your lifestyle, the more probabilities that your blood pressure will go down and you will avoid related health problems.
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