The Ministry of Health’s survey show that at least one in three Malaysian adults over 18 years old has hypertension. Despite its common prevalence within our society, by no means should it be taken lightly. Inadequate treatment of hypertension may potentially cause a myriad of complications such as heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, kidney disease, vision problem due to damage to the blood vessels in your eyes, metabolic syndrome and dementia. Some of these complications can eventually prove fatal and it comes as no surprise that hypertension has been ranked as the second most significant risk factor for premature death and disability.
Hypertension is defined as a chronic persistent elevation of one’s blood pressure. There are two measurements that is used to measure one’s blood pressure; systolic pressure is the force the heart exerts when pumping blood around your body and diastolic blood pressure is the resistance of your blood vessels measured when your heart is not pumping. In Malaysia, one is considered to have hypertension with a systolic blood pressure above 140mmHg and/or a diastolic blood pressure above 90mmHg.
The problem with hypertension is that it usually does not cause symptoms and you can live with it for many years without knowing you actually have it. This is probably why only slightly more than 30% of those with hypertension are receiving treatment. However, rarely when one’s blood pressure does becomes severe, it may cause symptoms such as headaches, blurring of vision, nosebleeds and shortness of breath. These symptoms though are not specific to hypertension as many other diseases cause them as well. Yet, hypertension continues to damage your blood vessels and organs and the longer your blood pressure remains uncontrolled, the worse the damage.
The two types of hypertension are primary and secondary hypertension. The cause for primary hypertension is unknown but one’s chances of getting this condition increases with risk factors such as:
- Family history of hypertension
- Advancing age
- Having an African or South Asian ethnicity
- Fatty diets
- High salt intake
- Insufficient physical activity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Being overweight or obese
- Chronic conditions such as diabetes and sleep apnea
Meanwhile, secondary hypertension is persistent elevated blood pressure as a result of an underlying cause or disease. Common ones include:
- Kidney disease
- Renovascular disease which causes narrowing of the blood vessels supplying blood to the kidneys
- Cushing’s Syndrome which causes excess steroid hormone production
- Lupus, an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues
- Thyroid disease
- Parathyroid disease
- Acromegaly, a disease resulting from excess growth hormones
- Pheochromocytoma, a rare tumour of the adrenal glands that releases excess epinephrine and norepinephrine, hormones which control one’s metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure
- Medications such as oral contraceptive pills, steroids and non-steroidal antiinflammatory agents
- Recreational drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine
The key to tackling this problem, like many other diseases, is to identify the disease early. As mentioned, because of its lack of symptoms, many do not know they have hypertension until its much too late. Thus, screening is the best way to detect its presence. Fortunately, it is easily detected by a simple blood pressure measurement at any clinic or hospital. Once identified, treatment for hypertension can then begin. Besides medication, a significant portion of its management consists of lifestyle changes which addresses its risk factors such as implementing diet changes, weight reduction, stress management and exercise. In the long run, reducing your blood pressure helps prevent complications from occurring. To learn more about hypertension, you can read hipertensi answers by Doctoroncall.