Hypertension or High Blood Pressure (BP)

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Nothing to worry much, but get going:-

Hypertension or high blood pressure (BP) is like a thief who creeps in without warning in the dead of the night. That’s because the disease produces practically no symptoms.

People rarely develop giddiness, headaches or nose bleeds until the hypertension is very high. The first sign that there is something wrong may be a complication like a heart attack, stroke or ruptured aneurysm.

Blood pressure is optimal when it is 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) or less. It is considered normal even if it is 130/90 and high when it is 140/90 or more. Values of 130-140/85-99 are considered in the prehypertension category. Blood pressure needs to be monitored every two years after the age of 20 and yearly after 40.

Some kidney and adrenal gland diseases and diabetes can cause a rise in BP. It can also occur with certain medications like the oral contraceptive pill, some pain relieving medications and even decongestant cough syrups. Pregnancy may cause a peculiar type of hypertension called pre-eclampsia. In these patients, hypertension can revert to normal if the aggravating condition is tackled.

Doctors, too, can precipitate hypertension in normal people. The mere thought of a medical check-up and sight of the blood pressure apparatus can set the heart racing and blood pressure soaring. This is called “white coat hypertension”. If these people are monitored for 24 hours as they go about their daily activities, their BP is found to be normal. They do not require treatment.

Hypertension usually sets in during middle age. The exact reason is not known. Genes, the environment and upbringing count. Though it is not due to a single inherited gene, it’s more likely to occur if one or both parents are hypertensive.

Ideally, those with hypertension should monitor their BP at home to make sure it is under control. This way, they can immediately consult a doctor if it seems to be fluctuating or elevated. Wrist and cuff apparatuses are available that show automatic readings. The arm should be straight and on level with the heart while doing this.

Though a reading of 120/80 is ideal, doctors may set a target that is slightly higher in older people.

High BP should not be ignored. It must be treated and kept under control. Untreated, it makes the blood vessels thicken and less pliable. The blood supply to the brain is then affected. This can lead to loss of memory, balance, reasoning and other changes of dementia. It can cause a stroke with paralysis of parts of the body. The heart, unable to pump against high resistance, may fail or there may be a heart attack.

There are several groups of medicines to control hypertension. They should be taken exactly as advised. Timing is important – they pills should be swallowed as per schedule, even on fasts. They should not be taken in the morning one day and in the evening the next.

To prevent hypertension, and help lower the pressure once it has set in, the diet should have no high calorie snacks or junk food, be low in fat and dairy products, and rich in fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and nuts contain potassium and magnesium. The minerals balance the effect of sodium or salt in the diet. Salt causes the body to retain water and this elevates the BP. Salt consumption should be 2.5gm (1/2 tsp) per person a day. The “hidden salt” in aerated drinks, health supplements and preserved food should be taken into account. The taste for salt is developed at a very young age and depends on one’s cooking and eating habits.

A sedentary lifestyle results in a tendency to gain weight. The BMI (or body mass index — weight divided by height in metre squared) should be 23. Obesity (BMI greater than 30) increases the work of the heart and blood vessels. At least 40 to 60 minutes of active exercise should be incorporated into the every day schedule.

Tobacco in any form (gutkha, chewing tobacco, snuff, beedis and cigarettes) aggravates hypertension. When it comes to tobacco, there can be no halfway measures. Use has to be completely stopped. Alcohol, too, raises the BP. If you must drink, consumption should be limited to 60ml a day for men (two drinks) and 30ml a day for women.

Sustained stress, at home or in the workplace, also elevates the BP. Worry has never provided a solution to a problem. It just produces further problems. Exercise, deep breathing, yoga and meditation are good stress busters. Try them.

And for those who are not affected and want to remain that way, get up and get moving. Now.

Source : The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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