Hypertension

“Hypertension is a growing concern in our society. The increase in the prevalence of this condition is in part related to changes in levels of physical activity and diet and increases in obesity and the average age of the Canadian population,” says an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Why should we worry about hypertension?

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a silent killer. One may have high blood pressure but have no symptoms. It silently causes damage to our vital organs and eventually results in heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and blindness.

It is estimated that 25 percent of the 42 million people with high blood pressure in the United States are unaware that they have high blood pressure and approximately three fourths of those with known hypertension have blood pressure that exceeds the recommended level! This is dangerous!

What is the normal blood pressure?

Normal blood pressure is defined as systolic blood pressure of less than 140 mm Hg (mercury) and diastolic blood pressure of less than 90 mm Hg. It is written as – systolic over diastolic (for example 120/80 mm Hg).

Blood pressure is lowest in the early morning, rises as the day progresses, then dips down during the night and earliest hours of the morning, says another CMAJ article.

Blood pressure also varies from minute to minute, depending on levels of stress and physical activity, as well as other determinants of cardiovascular activity.

“White-coat hypertension” means a person’s blood pressure is up in the doctor’s office but not elsewhere.

Why do people have hypertension?

Hypertension affects 22 percent of Canadians. The incidence of hypertension increases with age. Most elderly Canadians have high blood pressure – probably due to thickening of blood vessels. No cause is identified in 80 to 95 percent of people with hypertension.
This is known as idiopathic or essential hypertension. Others have hypertension due to primary disease of kidneys or due to certain hormonal disorders.

What can we do to prevent and control hypertension?

Hypertension can be prevented and/or treated with lifestyle changes – with or without medication.

Here are some suggestions: eat a healthy diet, lose weight if you are overweight, do not smoke, limit alcohol intake, eat a low salt diet, do regular exercise – three to five times a week, relax and learn to manage stress with laughter and meditation.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine states that in general there is poor control of hypertension as 50 per cent of the patients with high blood pressure discontinue their antihypertensive medications by the first year. There are many reasons why this happens. But this is not good. It is dangerous.

Now, here is something for your Thursday morning smile – written by an unknown author:

It’s sad for a girl to reach the age
Where men consider her charmless,
But it’s worse for a man to attain the age
Where the girls consider him harmless.

So, let us be careful about our blood pressure before it makes us charmless, harmless and worthless!

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