Measure blood pressure, do not let it scare you
The first step towards managing hypertension is to measure blood pressure regularly; don’t be scared of your blood pressure, by improving your lifestyle you can fight against hypertension.
What is hypertension or high blood pressure?
According to the 2013 definition by the European Society of Hypertension (ESH) and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), we can speak of hypertension when the systolic blood pressure values exceed 140mmHg and/or the diastolic blood pressure values exceed 90mmHg. Whichever the case, it is important to remember that any diagnosis of hypertension is based on a number of measurements, and should always be made by a doctor, who will measure blood pressure in a variety of conditions before making the diagnosis.
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
In the majority of cases, hypertension does not present any symptoms. Occasionally, it may be accompanied by headaches, vertigo, altered vision or buzzing in the ears, but it is always necessary to measure blood pressure to have an objective confirmation of the symptoms.
Why is hypertension a health risk?
The World Health Organization identifies hypertension as being the single most important cardiovascular risk factor, so it is important to measure blood pressure with regularity. Over time, hypertension causes damage to the organs; the most at risk are the heart, arteries, kidneys and brain. The heart is a muscle and hypertension makes its work much tougher than usual (as it needs to pump blood against a higher resistance), provoking an increase in volume of the heart’s muscle due to the effort (cardiac hypertrophy). Hypertrophy of the left ventricle can lead to heart failure as the heart weakens over time. The signs of ventricular hypertrophy are visible through an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram. The higher the levels of blood pressure, the higher the chances of a patient showing the signs of hypertrophy of the left ventricle. Furthermore, over time, hypertension damages the arteries: it can cause them to harden and modify their lining (arteriosclerosis). This phenomenon increases the chances of a blood clot or thrombus causing an occlusion or ischemia, potentially leading to heart attack or stroke. The damaged blood vessels can also lead to hemorrhages with consequences such as kidney failure or blindness.
Several studies have shown that if the levels of systolic (maximum) blood pressure exceed 150mmHg, there is an increase in the risk of heart attack or stroke and other potentially fatal episodes. If blood pressure rises, therapy should be adjusted and intensified within a maximum of one and a half months. Delaying therapy or underestimating the problem can seriously compromise your health, and it is therefore important that you do not take an illness such as hypertension lightly, and measure your blood pressure regularly. Read the article pertaining to this study to find out more.
What are the risk factors for the development of hypertension?
Bad lifestyle habits such as alcohol abuse, smoking, lack of physical activity, being overweight and a diet rich in salt and fats and low in vitamin and fiber will increase the risk of developing hypertension.
Can hypertension be prevented?
It is recommendable to follow a healthy lifestyle from a young age. To prevent hypertension, it is important that you follow a lifestyle that includes physical activity, the absence of smoking, weight loss (if overweight), the reduction of salt in the diet, a high consumption of fruit and vegetables and a low consumption of alcohol. These changes require a constant and prolonged effort in order to show their effect over time. We highly recommend maintaining your waist circumference below 94cm (37 inches) for men and 80cm (31.5 inches) for women.
Periodically measuring your blood pressure can allow you to notice relevant variations. Do not underestimate the importance of monitoring your blood pressure.