Know the numbers that change the pressure and reduce the risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
It’s about the awareness
‘Know your numbers’ is the theme of this year’s world hypertension day celebrated every 17th of May to create awareness and knowledge of the prevention and management about hypertension.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is simply the sustained or persistent elevation of the blood pressure above the normal range (120/80-140/90mHg?). It occurs when the force of blood on the walls of your arteries is too high.
Hypertension is a pretty common health problem, you can have it and not know because the symptoms are not so obvious (asymptomatic.)
Arteries – Blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to supply your tissues with Oxygen and nutrients
What causes the numbers to change?
In some cases, the cause of hypertension is unknown and is often referred to as primary hypertension.
Secondary hypertension, on the other hand, is caused by other medical conditions e.g diseases that affect the heart, kidney, arteries or the endocrine system.
The pressure on the walls of the arteries as blood flows through them are affected by some factors. They are:
- CARDIAC OUTPUT: This is the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute; your blood pressure increases as cardiac output increases. this is determined by the stroke volume and the heart rate.
- PHERIPHERAL RESISTANCE: This can be anything that works against blood flow in your arteries e.g. blood viscosity. Particles such as fat, cholesterol or proteins increase viscosity thus making it harder for your heart to push blood through the arteries and so your blood pressure increases. Peripheral resistance is also influenced by neonatal and hormonal and hormonal factors.
A typical scenario: How the changes in number occur
A small tear in the arteries may attract substances in the blood such as calcium, cholesterol and fat to form plaque. This plaque slowly builds up and hardens in the arteries causing them to become narrow. As the plaque increases, blood flow through the arteries decreases. Blood cells can stick to this plaque and form clots, further reducing or blocking blood flow.
This build-up of plaque is called Atherosclerosis – a medical condition that can lead to a heart attack.
When your arteries are damaged, the blood pressure becomes elevated and this makes the heart beat more forcefully; this is a risk factor for conditions such as stroke, kidney diseases and heart attack.
Over time, hypertension damages the walls of the arteries – they become weak and form an enlargement called Aneurysm or they may even burst into the surrounding tissues.
How to know your numbers
The device used to check your blood pressure is called a Sphygmomanometer. Nowadays, a portable digital model of this can be purchased for self-monitoring.
Two major numbers are read off the device:
Diastole – Pressure of blood on the walls of your arteries when the heart beats
Systole – Pressure on the walls of your arteries when your heart relaxes between beats.
Blood Pressure Chart (http://www.bloodpressureuk.org)
Although the blood pressure changes throughout the day, however, systolic pressure should not be higher than 120mmHg and your diastolic pressure, 80mmHg.
If the numbers are frequently or permanently above 140/90mmHg then you have high blood pressure.
How to change the pressure
It is easy for us to change the pressure now that we know what causes the numbers to change.
A lifestyle change is one of the essential steps to preventing hypertension.
The following are often advised:
- Regular exercise
- Weight loss if you are overweight
- Reduced alcohol intake
- A healthy diet
- Limited salt intake, especially if you are sensitive to the sodium in salt as this may cause your body to retain water which in turn increases blood volume and consequently blood pressure.
You are advised to regularly go for a medical check-up so any abnormality can be detected early.