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Hypertension- the silent killer

Tuesday June 17 2014    |     Views: 2482    |     Comments: 0   |     Print    Bookmark and Share





Hypertension has always been known as the silent killer disease. It comes in unannounced and hunts down its prey with no prior sign or warning. It has sent many to their early graves, creating a devastating shock to family members and friends of the victim. A particular incident of such was one which occurred several years back.

 

I was a youth corps member serving in one of the military institutions in the nation’s capital. Quite a number of the military officers at work were my very good friends. Contrary to the general belief that military officers were unfriendly, these ones were kind-hearted and well-disposed men and women. Of particular note was a man in his mid-fifties. He was known and popularly referred to as “Oga Akpan,” a man loved by many. His visit to the clinic was always significant as it was never a dull moment in his presence. His sense of humour lightened up the clinic, however dull it might have been prior to his arrival. He was a friend to both old and young. Many of the corps members back then always looked up to him as a father. However complicated issues relating to work might seem, he always had a fatherly advice that might probably lead to a way out. Little did we know that he had just a short time to spend with us.

 

We resumed at work on this fateful Monday morning, only to be welcomed by the shocking news of his demise on the previous day. It was an unbeliev­able news that came as a shock to everyone because he was still present at work the previous Friday, looking hale and hearty. He was said to have attended a party on that fateful Sunday and was still in good shape until he got home and slumped. He gave up the ghost before he could be rushed to the nearest hospital and not until he died was it discovered that he had Hypertension.

Hypertension is the term used to describe high blood pressure. Blood pres­sure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. Blood pressure readings are usually given as two numbers -- for example, 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg). One or both of these numbers can be too high. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure.

 

Normal blood pressure is when the blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mmHg most of the time.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is when the blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above most of the time. If the blood pressure numbers are 120/80 or higher, but below 140/90, it is called pre-hypertension. If an individual has pre-hypertension, such person is more likely to develop high blood pressure. If an individual has heart or kidney problems, or even a stroke, it is necessary for the blood pressure to be even lower than that of people who do not have these conditions.

 

Though the exact causes of hypertension are usually unknown, there are several factors that have been highly associated with the condition. These include: water and salt levels present in the body; the condition of the kidneys, nervous system, or blood vessels; the levels of different body hor­mones.

 

You are more likely to be told your blood pressure is too high as you get older. This is because your blood vessels become stiffer as you age. When that happens, your blood pressure goes up. High blood pressure increases your chance of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, and early death.

Other factors include: obesity, stress or anxiety, drinking too much alcohol (more than one drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for men), family history of high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, sed­entary lifestyle, lack of physical activity, high levels of salt intake (sodium sensitivity).

 

Most of the time, no cause of high blood pressure is found. This is called essential hypertension while high blood pressure that is caused by another medical condition or medication is called secondary hypertension. Second­ary hypertension may be due to: chronic kidney disease, disorders of the adrenal gland, pregnancy, medications such as birth control pills, diet pills, some cold medications, and migraine medications, and narrowed artery that supplies blood to the kidney.

 

Possible Complications

Poor blood pressure control places an individual at risk of the following:

•Bleeding from the aorta, the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs.

•Chronic kidney disease.

•Heart attack and heart failure.

•Poor blood supply to the legs.

•Stroke.

•Problems with vision.

 

Symptoms

Most of the time, there are no symptoms. For most patients, high blood pres­sure is found when they visit their health care provider or have it checked elsewhere. Because there are no symptoms, people can develop heart dis­ease and kidney problems without knowing they have high blood pressure. If you have a severe headache, nausea or vomiting, bad headache, confusion, changes in your vision, or nosebleeds you may have a severe and dangerous form of high blood pressure called malignant hypertension.

 

Tests

Your health care provider will check your blood pressure several times before diagnosing you with high blood pressure. It is normal for the blood pressure to be different depending on the time of day. Blood pressure readings taken at home may be a better measure of your current blood pressure than those taken at your doctor’s office. Make sure you get a good quality, well-fitting home device. It should have the proper sized cuff and a digital readout.

 

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to reduce blood pressure so as to lower risk of com­plications. For individuals with pre-hypertension, the health care provider will recommend lifestyle changes to bring blood pressure down to a normal range. Medicines are rarely used for pre-hypertension.

Many things can be done to help control blood pressure, including:

•Eating a heart-healthy diet, including potassium and fibre, and drinking plenty of water.

•Exercising regularly -- at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.

•Quitting smoking

•Reducing alcohol intake -- one drink a day for women, two a day for men.

•Reducing salt intake.

•Reducing stress -- try to avoid things that cause stress.

•Maintain a healthy body weight.

 

Your health care provider can help you find programs for losing weight, stop­ping smoking, and exer­cising. You can also get a referral from your doctor to a dietician, who can help you plan a diet that is healthy for you.

Even if you have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to have your blood pres­sure checked during your yearly check-up, especially if someone in your family has or had high blood pressure. Adults over 18 should have their blood pressure checked regularly. Lifestyle changes may help control your blood pressure. Take responsibility for your health.

 

Peju Onifade




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