Recognizing and understanding hypertension
Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, is an increasingly common condition. Hypertension causes haven't yet been defined, but various contributing factors have been identified. These factors include family history, age (more common in older people), race (more common in African Americans) and gender (more common in men).
There are different types of hypertension, such as gestational hypertension and isolated systolic hypertension, but the most common type is pulmonary hypertension (also known as pulmonary arterial hypertension), which is high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, veins and/or capillaries. Mild pulmonary hypertension isn't easily detected, but severe pulmonary hypertension can present with serious issues such as chest pain and heart disease.
In some cases of hypertension, sufferers don't experience any symptoms and the condition is only diagnosed after a blood pressure test is conducted. This is why it's recommended that people test their blood pressure frequently, through blood pressure machines or at the doctor's office. When hypertension symptoms do present, they generally include (but aren't limited to):
- Upset stomach and vomiting
- Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Blurry vision
If left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart attack and stroke, kidney problems, loss of vision, aneurysms and other serious medical conditions. Doctors will typically start treatment of hypertension at the first signs, to get the condition under control.
Various medications may be prescribed to treat hypertension, including beta blockers, alpha blockers, calcium channel blockers and many more. Once on these medications, doctors will continue to monitor your blood pressure frequently and make adjustments to dosages if necessary until the hypertension is under control.
Before prescribing or in tandem with medication, doctors will provide patients with information about hypertension and will likely suggest a series of lifestyle changes that may include:
- A healthy, low-fat diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables
- Cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking or jogging for at least 30 minutes a day
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Reducing salt intake
- Quitting smoking and limiting drinking