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Medicine & Health Education
The Story of High Blood Pressure
Lifestyle Modifications for a Healthy Body, Mind and Spirit
Bala N. Aiyer, M.D.
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Understanding Hypertension - Part - 1
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What is hypertension?

Hypertension is the medical term for "High Blood pressure." Despite its name it has no connection to being "Tense" or anxious or being "Hyper" or nervous, even though these may contribute to developing hypertension in some people. Even though hypertension is more common in some families than others and is often seen in older people, males, obese individuals and black race, it can affect any one, old or young, rich or poor, fat or thin built, male or female, black or white or any other race or ethic group. Some people who seem to be very quiet, easy going and relaxed, very young and many females have hypertension. One out of four people in this country, close to 40 million persons are affected by this condition.
 
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What is blood pressure?

Blood flows under a pressure as it flows inside the blood vessels, the arteries, as it stretches their smooth muscles with each heart beat, pumping the blood from the heart. There are two readings given. The pressure in the arteries when the heart is pumping the blood is called "Systolic" pressure. When the heart relaxes in-between the beats the lower resting phase reading is called "Diastolic" pressure. Thus the pressure is reported with two readings as "120 over 80". This is normal number for most people. Every one's blood pressure may slightly vary. It can be slightly different at different times. Older people may normally have slightly higher pressure.
 
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When is it called hypertension ?

Generally any reading of 140 over 90 or higher are considered to be high. Several readings at or above these readings, especially in the morning hours, after resting or after sleep, are required for the diagnosis of "Hypertension." A single reading of high numbers usually will not make a diagnosis of hypertension. However it should alert a person to get repeated checkups to keep a close watch on the blood pressure. Normally, it should be recorded on three occasions, in the morning hours after a good nights rest. Any reading of very high numbers like 180 over 110, even on one occasion will require immediate medical attention. Treatment is essential for any high reading with complications and symptoms of dizziness or headache or chest pain.
 
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What are the symptoms?

There are no symptoms or discomfort felt due to hypertension until it is late and until a complication occurs. Patients with mild to moderate hypertension usually just feel fine. Hypertension is called the "Silent Killer", because, for the first decade or two it usually produces no symtoms, except a sudden major complication. When it is severe, some people may feel a head ache or tiredness. Gradually damages occur in the blood vessels of the eyes, brain, heart and kidneys. When complications of blood vessels with hardening, blockage or bleeding occurs, people develop dizzy spells, breathing difficulty or even a heart attack or stroke will manifest.
 
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What causes hypertension?

About 10 percent of young patients with hypertension, have an identifiable cause for the elevation of blood pressure. They have a condition of a narrowing of the main blood vessels to the kidneys, or the main blood vessel called "Aorta" or they may have a special kind of tumor secreting a hormone or low thyroid hormone levels. These are rare conditions called "Secondary Hypertension". All these cases need extensive investigations and many of these conditions can be corrected and hypertension controlled by early and surgery and medicines.
In the other 90 percent of the patients with hypertension, the cause is not known and are called "Essential Hypertension." A number of theories exist to attribute a possible causative factor that could often play a role which include : 1: Cigarette smoking; 2: Heredity or a family history; 3: An inactive or sedentary life style; 4: Obesity or overweight; 5: Diet with High saturated fat; 6: Diet with excess salt; 7: Inability of the body to handle excess salt or water intake; and, 8: Kidney damage due to other conditions like diabetes, nephritis and lupus.
 
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Who gets hypertension?

Often it runs in the family. Relatives of people with hypertension are at a greater risk than other to get the condition. If you have a family member with hypertension, have your blood pressure checked periodically. Hypertension can occur at any age but it is more common as people get older. It often begins somewhere between the ages of 30 and 50 in most people. Men are more apt to become hypertensive than women. Women are at special risk for developing hypertension during pregnancy, when they are taking birth control pills or if they are diadetic. It is more common among overweight people, and it is more difficult to control.
Blacks are twice as likely to develop it than white and they also develop more severe forms. People who eat too much salt tend to retain fluid leading to early hypertension. Cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol intake, stressful work, obesity, worry and anxiety are also contributing or aggravating factors in this. But anyone can develop hypertension and not know about it until a complication occurs. There is only one way to know for sure, to check the blood pressure, to diagnose early and treat and prevent all complications. That is to get a regular checkup of blood pressure.
 
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-- This is called Behavior Modification --
Essential Changes -- for a healthy Heart and General Health0
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