What are the risk factors for hypertension?Modifiable risk factors include unhealthy diets (excessive salt consumption, a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats, low intake of fruits and vegetables), physical inactivity, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, and being overweight or obese. Non-modifiable risk factors include a family history of hypertension, age over 65 years and co-existing diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease.
What are common symptoms of hypertension?Hypertension is called a "silent killer". Most people with hypertension are unaware of the problem because it may have no warning signs or symptoms. For this reason, it is essential that blood pressure is measured regularly. When symptoms do occur, they can include early morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms, vision changes, and buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors. The only way to detect hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure. Having blood pressure measured is quick and painless. Although individuals can measure their own blood pressure using automated devices, an evaluation by a health professional is important for assessment of risk and associated conditions.
What are the complications of uncontrolled hypertension?Among other complications, hypertension can cause serious damage to the heart. Excessive pressure can harden arteries, decreasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. This elevated pressure and reduced blood flow can cause:
- Chest pain, also called angina.
- Heart attack, which occurs when the blood supply to the heart is blocked and heart muscle cells die from lack of oxygen. The longer the blood flow is blocked, the greater the damage to the heart.
- Heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to other vital body organs.
- Irregular heart beat which can lead to a sudden death.
How can the burden of hypertension be reduced?Reducing hypertension prevents heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage, as well as other health problems. Prevention
- Reducing salt intake (to less than 5g daily).
- Eating more fruit and vegetables.
- Being physically active on a regular basis.
- Avoiding use of tobacco.
- Reducing alcohol consumption.
- Limiting the intake of foods high in saturated fats.
- Eliminating/reducing trans fats in diet.
- Reducing and managing stress.
- Regularly checking blood pressure.
- Treating high blood pressure.
- Managing other medical conditions.