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Dr Adebimpe Alere
Obafemi Awolowo
University Teaching Hospital

Ile-Ife, Nigeria
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AVOIDING HYPERTENSION
by Adebimpe Alere

The elevated blood pressure is in itself not the problem; but the fact that an elevation of blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis), eye damage, and stroke (brain damage).

 

High blood pressure does not mean excessive emotional tension, although emotional tension and stress can temporarily increase blood pressure. Hypertension means high pressure (tension) in the arteries. For the general population, a blood pressure of 140/90 or greater is regarded as hypertension. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80; blood pressure between 121/81 and 139/89 is called "pre-hypertension", and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered high..

 

The American Heart Association estimates that high blood pressure affects approximately one in three adults in the United States - 73 million people. High blood pressure is also estimated to affect about two million American teens and children, and the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that many are under-diagnosed. Hypertension is clearly a major public health problem concern.

Two forms of high blood pressure have been described:

  1. Essential (or primary) hypertension

  2. Secondary hypertension.

Essential hypertension occurs more and accounts for 95% of hypertension. The risk for developing essential hypertension is multifactorial, that is, there are several factors whose combined effects produce hypertension. These include obesity, overweight, diabetes, age, race, family history, high salt diet, lack of exercise, poor physical fitness, alcoholism, smoking, stress and inactivity. In secondary hypertension, which accounts for 5% of hypertension, the high blood pressure is secondary to (caused by) a specific abnormality in one of the organs or systems of the body; usually kidney diseases, endocrine diseases, congenital diseases and some others.  

The elevated blood pressure is in itself not the problem; but the fact that an elevation of blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis), eye damage, and stroke (brain damage). For that reason, the diagnosis of high blood pressure is important so that efforts can be made to normalize blood pressure and prevent these complications.

As far as the management of hypertension is concerned, the reader has a critical role to play and the physician has a part to play. On the part of the reader, some lifestyle changes and modifications have to be made.

  • Exercise at least 45 minutes a day

  • Encourage weight loss if obese or overweight.

  • Reduce or eliminate salt intake.

  • Stop the intake of alcohol and the use of cigarettes.

  • Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products while reducing total and saturated fat intake. The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet is one way of achieving such a plan.

  • Go for regular blood pressure check ups with your physician.

The role of the physician is vast and way beyond the scope of this article. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you need a personal physician whose directives and prescription you should follow closely. Till next time

 

 


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