Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition where the blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or more. If not treated immediately, hypertension can cause serious life-threatening diseases, such as heart failure, kidney disease, and stroke.
Blood pressure is divided into systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure when the heart pumps blood throughout the body, while diastolic pressure is the pressure when the heart relaxes before pumping blood again.
Hypertension occurs when the systolic pressure is above 130 mmHg and the diastolic pressure is more than 80 mmHg. Blood pressure that exceeds this number is a dangerous condition and must be treated immediately.
Causes and Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension is divided into primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension has no known cause with certainty, while secondary hypertension can occur, among others, due to kidney disease, sleep apnea , and alcoholism.
Hypertension has the title of silent killer or a disease that kills silently. This is because people with hypertension generally do not experience any symptoms, until their blood pressure is too high and life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to regularly check blood pressure, either independently or by visiting a doctor.
Hypertension Treatment and Prevention
Hypertension can be overcome by living a healthy lifestyle, such as eating healthy foods, stopping smoking, and reducing the consumption of caffeinated drinks. However, if the blood pressure is high enough, the patient is also required to take blood pressure-lowering drugs.
To prevent high blood pressure, do exercise regularly and maintain an ideal body weight. Also check your blood pressure regularly to the doctor, especially if you have factors that can increase the risk of hypertension.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension is a dangerous disease, because it can occur without symptoms. In fact, in some cases, the symptoms only appear after the hypertension gets worse and can be life-threatening. Symptoms that can appear in this condition include:
- Hard to breathe
- Chest pain
- Visual disturbance
- Ears ringing
- Heart rhythm disturbances
- Blood in urine
When to go to the doctor
Do regular blood pressure checks to the doctor at least once every two years starting at the age of 18 years. If you are over 40 years old or 18–39 years old but have risk factors for hypertension, it is recommended that you have your blood pressure checked once a year.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, do a blood pressure check according to the schedule determined by the doctor. You can also check your blood pressure independently using an over-the -counter blood pressure meter.
Please note, the symptoms mentioned above do not always occur in every patient with hypertension. Therefore, do not delay blood pressure checks until symptoms appear, because it can be fatal.
Causes of Hypertension
Hypertension is divided into primary and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension develops over many years and the cause is unknown. Primary hypertension is the most common type of hypertension.
In contrast to primary hypertension, secondary hypertension can be caused by a number of conditions, namely:
- Kidney illness
- Thyroid gland disease
- Adrenal gland tumor
- Congenital disorders of the blood vessels
- Alcohol addiction
- Drug abuse
- Respiratory disorders that occur during sleep ( sleep apnea)
- Take certain medicines, such as fever-reducing medicines, pain relievers, cold-cough medicines, or birth control pills
Hypertension Risk Factors
There are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing hypertension, including:
- Getting older, especially over 65 years old
- Rarely exercise and do physical activity
- Less consumption of foods that contain potassium
- Have a family history of high blood pressure
- Suffering from obesity, sleep apnea, diabetes, or kidney disease
- Eating too many high-salt foods
- Consuming too much caffeine
- Have a habit of smoking and consuming alcoholic beverages
In establishing a diagnosis, the doctor will ask questions related to the patient’s medical history and the patient’s family. The doctor will also ask about the patient’s lifestyle, such as smoking and drinking alcohol.
The diagnosis of hypertension is made by measuring the patient’s blood pressure using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer . The following are the steps for checking the correct blood pressure to get accurate results:
- Patients should not exercise, smoke, and consume caffeinated drinks 30 minutes before blood pressure checks.
- The patient will be asked to urinate first, then sit relaxed in a chair with feet on the floor.
- The patient needs to roll up the sleeves of the shirt or remove any clothing covering the area where the sphygmomanometer cuff is attached .
- The patient should not speak during the blood pressure check.
- The doctor will measure the blood pressure in both arms of the patient, then the measurement will be repeated in the arm with the higher blood pressure.
- The doctor will repeat the blood pressure measurement at least twice with an interval of 1-2 minutes.
Furthermore, the results of blood pressure measurements will be classified as follows:
- Normal: under 120/80 mmHg
- Increased: ranged between 120ꟷ129 mmHg for systolic pressure and less than 80 mmHg for diastolic pressure
- Hypertension grade 1: 130/80 mmHgꟷ139/89 mmHg
- Hypertension grade 2: 140/90 mmHg or higher
Then, to find out the cause of high blood pressure and detect organ damage that may occur due to hypertension, the doctor can perform further tests by:
- Blood test, to measure cholesterol and creatinine levels
- Urine test, to measure electrolyte and hormone levels
- Electrocardiogram, to determine the electrical activity of the heart
- CT scan of the abdomen, to determine the condition of the adrenal glands
- Kidney ultrasound, to check the condition of the kidneys
High blood pressure can be overcome by changing a healthier lifestyle. However, in some patients, lifestyle changes must also be accompanied by the consumption of antihypertensive drugs.
Whether or not the use of antihypertensive drugs is necessary depends on the patient’s blood pressure and how much risk the patient has of complications, such as stroke or heart attack.
The following are some of the treatment methods that can be used to treat hypertension:
Changing your lifestyle to a healthier one can lower your blood pressure within a few weeks. Usually, doctors will suggest lifestyle changes without the need for medication if the patient’s risk of developing complications is low.
A healthy lifestyle that needs to be lived, among others:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Reduce salt consumption to less than a teaspoon per day
- Increase physical activity and exercise regularly
- Lose excess weight and maintain ideal body weight
- Stop smoking habit
- Avoid or reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages
- Reduce consumption of caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, or cola
- Doing relaxation therapy to manage stress, such as yoga or meditation
Use of drugs
In some cases, people with hypertension must take blood pressure-lowering drugs for life. However, the doctor may reduce the dose or stop the medication if the patient’s blood pressure is under control through lifestyle changes.
Doctors will prescribe antihypertensive drugs in patients whose blood pressure is more than 140/90 mmHg and is at risk for complications.
Some types of drugs that are often used to treat hypertension are:
- Diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide
- Calcium antagonists , such as amlodipine and nifedipine
- Beta blockers, such as atenolol and bisoprolol
- ACE inhibitors, such as captopril and ramipril
- Potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone
- Angiotensin-2 receptor b lockers (ARBs), such as losartan and valsartan
- Renin blockers, such as aliskiren
- Vasodilators, such as minoxidil
It is important for the patient to take the above drugs in the prescribed dosage and notify the doctor if any side effects occur.
Complications of Hypertension
High blood pressure can damage blood vessels and other organs in the body. If not treated immediately, high blood pressure can lead to serious illnesses, such as:
- Loss of vision
- Metabolic syndrome
- Memory disorders
- Kidney illness
- Peripheral artery disease
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Vascular dementia
- Brain aneurysm
How to prevent hypertension is to avoid factors that can increase the risk of developing this disease. Some effective ways that can be done are:
- Achieve and maintain ideal body weight.
- Get regular exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling 2–3 hours each week.
- Eat low-fat and high-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Limit the amount of salt in the diet, to no more than 1 teaspoon per day.
- Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages.
- Limit consumption of caffeinated drinks.
- Stop smoking.