Hypertension – The Silent Killer

Written by Pliro
May 17, 2019 Last updated: May 17, 2019

According to a 2016 study, worldwide prevalence of hypertension is increasing. Low-income countries with no awareness programs and deficient treatment strategies tend to experience a ~10% increase of new cases each year.

Pakistan is one of many countries with a hypertension problem. Some authors suggest nearly 33% of all citizens over 45 years old and 18% of those over 15 years old suffer from hypertension of some degree, many not even knowing it.

Since May 17th is “world hypertension day” our health blog will use this opportunity to provide the public with information about some of the most important aspects of this condition.

The Problem of Hypertension

When a doctor or nurse measures your blood pressure they’ll register 2 numbers: Systole and diastole. Systole is the magnitude of pressure experienced by your circulatory system when your heart beats and diastole is the same but when your heart is relaxed.

A healthy middle-age adult should have a normal blood pressure of around 120/80 mmHg (sys/dias), the elderly normally have values slightly lower. When pressure reaches 140/90 mmHg or higher the doctor says the patient has a high blood pressure and is hypertensive. Hypertension is then a condition in which high pressure puts our blood vessels is a situation of stress which makes maintaining circulation more difficult for our heart.  

This condition is extremely common around the world and has earned the name of “The silent killer” because people often present no symptoms, meanwhile the circulatory system suffers from chronic damage which can lead to kidney failure, heart attacks and many other associated problems.

In the minority of cases when symptoms are present, they include:

  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pains
  • Nose and heart palpitations

Reasons for Hypertension

People with one or more of these characteristics is at higher risk of hypertension:

  • 45 years old or older
  • Genetic predisposition / family with frequent cases of hypertension
  • Being of black or caribbean descent
  • Salt-rich diet
  • Sedentarism
  • Obesity
  • Drinks alcohol and/or smokes tobacco

Some pathologies can lead to high blood pressure, such as:

Also, certain types of medication can be problematic. This is why your blood pressure should be considered before starting a new treatment.

  • Contraceptive pill
  • Steroids
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Some types of cold medication
  • Herbal remedies with liquorice
  • Some types of antidepressants

Treatment & Precautions for Hypertension

Treatment goals change with age, younger people should aim for a 120/80 mmHg blood pressure, but as people get older they should work for a slightly higher number.

For a lot of people (specially if they are young), hypertension can be treated by making some lifestyle changes like eating healthier, being more physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting tobacco and alcohol.

Others may also need medication to regulate their blood pressure. Here are a few examples of common pharmaceuticals used for that purpose:

  • Thiazide diuretics: They help by promoting urination which reduces the amount of sodium and water from your blood, thus reducing its volume.
  • ACE inhibitors and Angiotensin II receptor blockers: They relax your blood vessels
  • Calcium channel inhibitors: These also relax blood vessels but also reduce heart rate.

Pharmaceutical treatment for hypertension should be recommended and supervised by a professional healthcare provider.

Hypertension is one of the great health problems of our moderns society but is also manageable and preventable. The general population should know more about this condition, how it starts and its treatment. Also we highly recommend visiting a doctor regularly checking your blood pressure to stay ahead of any problems.