Jack Ward, age 50 and banker in Sharjah says he was shocked when he was diagnosed with high blood pressure just at age 48.
I had always assumed I was healthy.
I was not overweight nor did I smoke or drink and in fact was shocked to learn that I had this condition. I only found out I was hypertensive after undergoing a rigorous medical examination. My first impression was that it was something over which I had no control and I was bothered by the fact that I would have to take medication every day for the rest of my life. But I wish I had known about blood pressure before being diagnosed with it so maybe I could have prevented it from the onset…
Jack and in fact many of us, are not even aware that we have high blood pressure until we actually get checked for it and then are put on prescription medication to treat the problem. To explain, Dr.Padma Vasanth Kumar Shetty, General Practitioner in the Department of Accident and Emergency in GMC Hospital points out that high blood pressure is a condition in which the force of blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems. “The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure,” she says. “High blood pressure is also known also as a silent killer and this is because unfortunately many people don’t even know that they have hypertension because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs.” This, accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, can ultimately result in damage to your arteries, kidneys and heart which accelerate exponentially. In fact, untreated hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and dementia.
What the Numbers mean
Everybody needs to know their blood pressure numbers, and everyone needs to prevent high blood pressure from developing. While many individuals develop high blood pressure as they get older, it is definitely not a hallmark of healthy aging. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, all levels above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk, and the risk grows as blood pressure levels rise. “Pre-hypertension” means you’re likely to end up with high blood pressure unless you take steps to prevent it. For adults under 65, it’s that upper number in your blood pressure reading that may be the best indicator of future heart problems or even premature death. If that first number is 140 or higher, you have reason for concern. For those 65 and older, however, it’s a trickier situation. Readings may vary more and doctors need to be careful in prescribing blood pressure medication for older patients.
Reasons for High Blood Pressure
According to Dr. Shetty, high blood pressure typically develops over many years and it affects nearly everyone eventually. “There is no identifiable cause,” she says and in fact, this type of hypertension is called primary or essential hypertension. There is another type of hypertension, points out Dr. Shetty, known as secondary hypertension which can be the result of various underlying conditions and medications. “This type of hypertension can appear suddenly and can cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension,” she says. “Some examples include congenital or genetic defect in the blood vessels, kidney problems, adrenal glands tumours, prolonged use of medications such as birth control pills, cold remedies as well as drug abuse such as cocaine.”
Signs of blood pressure
There’s a common misconception that people with high blood pressure, also called hypertension, will experience symptoms such as nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping or facial flushing. The truth is that high blood pressure can be largely a symptomless condition. If you ignore your blood pressure because you think symptoms will alert you to the problem, you are taking a dangerous chance with your life. Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms even if the blood pressure readings are on the higher side, explains Dr. Shetty. “However the following symptoms can be observed in some individuals: a dull headache, dizzy spells, and/or bleeding from the nose,” she says.
Low Blood Pressure
On the flip side is low blood pressure which Dr. Shetty explains is a condition when the pressure of pumped blood from heart is not adequate to maintain the circulation of the body. While many mistakenly think that low blood pressure is not much a health concern, Dr. Shetty says that it can also be problematic. “Symptoms of low blood pressure include dizziness, weakness, light headaches, risk of injury from falls, fainting, a lack of concentration, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue as well as cold and clammy extremities,” she says. “It is not a matter so much as how low but how quickly your blood pressure drops.”
Treatment of High Blood Pressure
Treating high blood pressure is a multi-pronged approach, tells Dr. Shetty and it includes changes in diet, the intake of certain prescribed medications as well as exercise and lifestyle modifications.”A few lifestyle habits that can be incorporated when dealing with high blood pressure include limiting alcohol, managing stress, increase physical activity, maintain a healthy weight and finally, be sure to monitor your blood pressure regularly,” she says.
Diet also plays a key role in helping control high blood pressure, says Dr. Shetty. “By following the right diet you may reduce your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks,” she says, and in fact, this is also known as the ‘Dash’ diet. “This is basically a dietary approach to stop hypertension that is lifelong to treat or prevent high blood pressure,” she explains and it emphasizes on vegetables, fruits and low fat dairy foods as well as moderate amounts of whole grams, fish, poultry and nuts. “Also if you are older, above 51 years of age, or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, your salt intake has to be reduced,” advises Dr. Shetty.
Also blood pressure rises as body weight increases and in fact, obesity is a known risk factor for developing high cholesterol and diabetes, which in turn can lead to heart disease. But the good news is that a loss of as little as 4.5 kilograms can help to lower blood pressure. One safe, effective way to decrease blood pressure for all age groups is to eat foods that work naturally to dilate blood vessels so the heart doesn’t have to work so hard
Regular physical activity is another good step toward controlling or even preventing high blood pressure. Start with 30 minutes of moderate-level activity, such as brisk walking, bicycling or gardening on most—preferably all—days of the week. The activity even may be divided into three, 10-minute periods each. For added benefit, these moderate half-hours may be increased or supplemented by regular, vigorous exercise. Of course, prior to upping the activity level, people should check with their physicians, especially if they have had heart trouble or a previous heart attack, a family history of heart disease at an early age, or other serious health problems.
Your chances of developing high blood pressure are also higher if you:
- Are overweight
- Are a man over the age of 45
- Are a woman over the age of 55
- Have a family history of high blood pressure
- Have pre-hypertension (that is, blood pressure in the 120–139/80– 89 mmHg range)
Other things that can raise blood pressure include:
- Eating too much salt
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not getting enough potassium in your diet
- Not doing enough physical activity
- Taking certain medicines
- Having long-lasting stress
- Smoking (smoking can cause a temporary rise in blood pressure)