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Hypertension: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About hypertension

Hypertension means elevated blood pressure and it is a common disorder. It may increase the chances life threatening diseases of brain, heart and kidney. It is treatable in a vast majority of individuals.

Hypertension: Incidence, age and sex

Hypertension is a common problem which affects about 30% of the world’s population. The prevalence of hypertension is slightly higher in men than in women.

Signs and symptoms of hypertension: Diagnosis

Hypertension in most individuals remains asymptomatic and does not produce any symptoms. It may only be detected on blood pressure measurement. However some individuals may complain of heaviness in head, palpitations, giddiness and blurring of vision. Sometimes hypertension may be diagnosed only on advent of one of its complication. The diagnosis of hypertension is made by measurement with an instrument called sphygmomanometer. A blood pressure of 140/90 mm hg or higher, is considered high.

Causes and prevention of hypertension

Hypertension can be essential wherein there is no identifiable cause or it may be secondary wherein it is secondary to an underlying disorder like disease of the kidneys or its artery, certain tumours of the adrenal gland or a congenital condition called coarctation of the aorta. In a majority of the cases, hypertension is essential, and only 10% of individuals exhibit secondary hypertension. The secondary causes are seen more frequently in children and young adults.

Preventive measures of hypertension include limiting salt intake to less than 5 gm (teaspoon) per day, increasing potassium intake by consumption of fruits and green vegetables, regular physical exercise and effective stress management.

Hypertension: Complications

Hypertension increases the chances of blockage of coronary arteries (which supply blood to the heart muscles) and cerebral arteries (which supply blood to brain). This leads to heart attacks, angina and stroke (paralysis). Increased pressure also damages the kidneys and may lead to renal failure. The eyes may also get affected with irreversible changes and loss of vision.

Hypertension: Treatment

The chief modalities of treatment of hypertension include appropriate diet, exercise and medication. There are several classes of drugs available for treatment of hypertension which may be used alone or in combination. Some of these are beta blockers (atenolol, propanolol), diuretics (thiazides, furosemide), calcium channel blockers (amlodipine), ACE inhibitors (enalapril, ramipril) and angiotensin receptor blockers (losartan). The choice of drug depends upon the patient’s age, co-existing illnesses and tolerability. In addition to above, lifestyle modifications such as cessation of smoking, moderation of alcohol intake and learning to manage stress effectively, also help in managing hypertension and its complications.