Explainer: What is hypertension?

Explainer: What is hypertension?

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This World Hypertension Day, let’s manage blood pressure better with the right information and the right approach. 

For this year, the theme of World Hypertension Day is ‘Measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer’. In order to do that, we need to first understand what hypertension or high blood pressure actually entails.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30–79 years worldwide have hypertension. However, nearly 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition.

So, let’s start at the beginning. Blood pressure is measured on the basis of Systolic and Diastolic pressure. And measuring unit is Millimetre of Mercury (mmHg). Normal blood pressure can be defined in adults as systolic blood pressure equal or less than 120 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure equal or less than 80 mmHg.

An adult is at risk of prehypertension if systolic pressure is measured between 120 and 139 mmHg and diastolic pressure is measured between 80 and 89 mmHg. A diagnosis of hypertension is made when the systolic pressure is 140 mmHg or higher and the diastolic pressure is 90 mmHg or higher.

Hypertension can pose numerous health challenges to our body and even lead to serious problems if untreated. It can cause a brain stroke by bursting or blocking arteries, which supply blood and oxygen to the brain. It can cause serious damage to the heart, and also lead to kidney damage or failure.

Excessive pressure can harden arteries and decrease the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Elevated pressure and reduced blood flow can cause chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, and irregular heartbeat. All these conditions can lead to a sudden death.

The good news is that hypertension can be managed with medications, if recommended by the doctor, as well as simple lifestyle and diet modifications. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cut down on salt and fat consumption.
  • Increase the intake of dietary fiber, fruits and vegetables.
  • Quit smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Increase physical activity to maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Make concerted effort to manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly.
  • Take the medicines prescribed by the doctor, if any.