High blood pressure is a common condition in which the person’s long term force of the blood against the artery walls is high enough to eventually lead to health problems such as kidney or heart disease.
A person’s blood pressure is determined by two factors. First, the amount of blood that the heart pumps, and second, the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and narrower the arteries, the higher is the blood pressure.
A person can have high blood pressure for a long time (even years) without any symptoms. However, even there are no symptoms, it can continue to cause damage to blood vessels and heart. When left untreated and uncontrolled, blood pressure puts you at a higher risk of serious health problems such as stroke and heart attack.
High blood pressure usually develops over a long period of time, and affects nearly everyone eventually. However, it can be easily diagnosed and once you know that you have high blood pressure, you can seek your doctor’s help to control it.
- Normal blood pressure < 120/80
- Pre-hypertension 120-139/ 80-89
- Stage 1 High blood pressure=140-159/90-99
- Stage 2 High blood pressure > 160/100
In Myanmar, seven studies involving 20,901 subject was conducted, and it was found that the prevalence of high blood pressure was 22 percent. The incidence among men was 21.5 percent, and among women it was 22.7 percent. It was found that the prevalence of high blood pressure increases with age. The researchers also found some positive correlation between high blood pressure and alcohol consumption and smoking.
However, there is another study that shows that the prevalence may be higher. A 2008 WHO survey found Myanmar had the highest rate of high blood pressure in the Southeast Asia region. In Myanmar, one in three adults suffers from high blood pressure with a prevalence of 39.8pc in women and 44.3 percent in men.
Usually, high blood pressure does not cause any symptoms and is often labelled as the silent killer. People with high blood pressure normally do not realize that they have it unless they have it measured at one of their routine health examinations.
People with high blood pressure may experience the following symptoms:
- blurred vision,
- nausea and/or vomiting, and
- Shortness of breath and chest pain
In many cases, people do not seek medical care until they start experiencing symptoms from organ damage caused by long term blood pressure. Chronic blood pressure can cause the following types of organ damage:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke
- Eye damage with progressive vision loss
- Kidney failure
- Outpouchings of the aorta, called aneurysms
- Peripheral arterial disease
When to Seek Medical Care
In some cases, the person comes to know of high blood pressure when he/she complains of chest pain or other stroke like symptoms. If you ever experience this, you should seek immediate medical care.
Blood pressure readings may be different in different situations and during different times of the day. So, isolated elevated blood pressure readings do not necessarily signify high blood pressure. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Change in vision
- Headache with or without nausea
- Lethargy and fatigue.
High blood pressure often require lifelong management. It can progress through the year and the treatment may have to be adjusted over the period of time. The patient may have to adopt a step wise approach to managing high blood pressure, which may include diet control, lifestyle changes, weight loss and if required, medication as well.
Doctors believe that changing lifestyle can go a long way in helping control blood pressure. Regular exercise, lowering salt intake, healthy diet, no smoking and maintaining healthy weight can help control blood pressure.
Commonly used medications are thiazide diuretics, beta blockers, Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, Calcium channel blockers, and Renin inhibitors. Some other medications used for high blood pressure treatment include Alpha blockers, Alpha-beta blockers, Vasodilators, Central-acting agents, and Aldosterone antagonists.
Proper control of high blood pressure minimizes the risk of developing complications such as kidney failure, heart attack, blindness and others. However, for the management of blood pressure, patients have to normally take medications lifelong. Poorly controlled and untreated high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, heart failure and stroke. For this reason, it is known as “the silent killer”.
High blood pressure can be controlled by way of lifestyle changes that include:
- eating a low-fat, nutritious diet
- regular exercise
- reduced salt (sodium) intake
- drink alcohol in moderation
- maintain a healthy weight, and if required, lose weight
- quit smoking
- regular health checkups and blood pressure measurements
- take medications regularly and as directed
- reduce stress