Hypertension - Some Facts

Hypertension – Some Facts

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is much more common than you may think. It’s estimated that approximately 30% of adults in the UAE and approximately 1.13 billion people worldwide have high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is defined as the pressure which is placed upon the walls of the arteries as blood flows through them. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is normally represented by two numbers.

Systolic pressure is the pressure which is recorded whilst the heart beats and blood is being pumped around the body. This is usually the first number given and is the higher of the two numbers.

Diastolic pressure is the pressure measured when the heart is resting between beats. This is the second number and is the lower of the two numbers.

So when a doctor or nurse advises you that your blood pressure is “120 over 80”, or you see 120/80 mmHg written in your medical report, it means that your systolic pressure is 120 millimeters of mercury and your diastolic pressure is 80 millimeters of mercury.

High blood pressure is normally defined as having a sustained blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher – although this definition may vary in some countries.

Often there are no signs of high blood pressure and it may go undetected. It is frequently noticed during routine medical examination or as a consequence of testing due to some other ailment. It is a serious risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease – conditions which may impact upon the circulation of blood around the body, e.g. stroke, heart disease etc.

When you have hypertension, your heart needs to work harder to drive the blood around your body. Over time this additional strain can damage your heart. The extra pressure can also damage the walls of the arteries, which may cause a blockage or cause the artery to split – a haemorrhage. Either of these conditions might result in a stroke.

There is no unique identifiable cause for elevated blood pressure in 95% of cases. However, the available evidence shows that, in addition to age, lifestyle factors play an important role in dictating your blood pressure. Excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and obesity are just some of the known risk factors.

Obviously medication exists which can help reduce your blood pressure – but, as with any medication there might be side effects and there will always be some unlucky patients who do not respond to drugs. Changes to your lifestyle, such as eating a healthier diet, taking regular exercise, lowering your alcohol intake, quitting smoking and losing some weight can be very effective in reducing your blood pressure.

Some people may also find meditation, self hypnosis and other relaxation exercises to be beneficial. In addition to these more conventional methods, recent clinical evidence shows that paced breathing, guided by electronically controlled cues triggered by bio feedback can rapidly yield sustainable reductions in blood pressure levels. FDA approved devices such as resperate are now commercially available to hypertension sufferers and offer an clinically proven drug free treatment.

In summary, hypertension is more common than you may think and, due to its lack of visible symptoms, you should have your blood pressure measured by a medical professional on a regular basis.

If you do discover that you have high blood pressure then you will be able to improve the situation by making some relatively easy lifestyle changes. Even if you are prescribed drugs then the lifestyle modifications will be effective and many will have additional health benefits as well.

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