Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a persistent blood pressure above 90 mm Hg between the heart beats (diastolic) or over 140 mm Hg at the beats (systolic). The blood pressure varies naturally in response to stress and physical work load. Therefore the blood pressure shall be measured in a relaxed situation and several times before this diagnosis is certain.
Hypertension does not in itself give dramatic symptoms, but it is dangerous because it causes a highly increased risk for heart infarction, stroke and renal failure.
THE PREVALENCE OF HYPERTENSION
One out of six persons is hypertensive. Most persons suffering from hypertension is over the age of 35. Still 6% of teenagers are hypertensive and also 1% of every child.
THE SYMPTOMS AND CONSEQUENCES OF HYPERTENSION
Hypertension is often without symptoms. By mild hypertension, flushing and headache can occur.
More serious hypertension gives symptoms like: Fatigue, dizziness, palpitations, tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and nosebleeds.
Extreme hypertension gives morning headache, blurred vision, dyspnoea (breathing difficulties) and elevated values of certain components in the blood, like urea and serum creatinine.
Hypertension will in the long run hurt the blood vessels, and serious hypertension can do extensive damage to the blood vessels in a few months or years.
The damaged blood vessels will impair the blood flow. They can also rupture causing a bleeding or be clogged by a blood clot that shuts out the blood flow and causes tissue damage. These things can occur in the brain, causing a stroke, in the heart causing heart infarction or in the kidneys with renal failure as a consequence.
A renal failure will in the next turn cause the hypertension to aggravate, partly because a damaged kidney will not manage to secrete water and salt well enough, and partly because a kidney that do not get enough blood will start a hormonal mechanism that induces the kidney to actively hold back salt and water.
THE MECHANISMS AND CAUSES OF HYPERTENSION
The direct mechanisms causing hypertension is one or more of these factors:
- An increased tension in the blood vessel walls.
- An increased blood volume caused by elevated levels of salt and lipids in the blood holding back water.
- Hardened and inelastic blood vessels caused by arteriosclerosis.
The primary causes behind these mechanisms are not fully understood, but these factors contribute to causing hypertension:
- A high consume of salt.
- A high fat consume.
- Stress at work and in the daily life.
- Lack of exercise.
- Kidney failure.
LIFESTYLE MEASURES TO PREVENT AND TREAT HYPERTENSION
Lifestyle measures shall always be a component of the hypertension treatment. Sometimes such measures are enough to cure the condition. Those measures are:
- Reducing salt consume.
- Reduction of fat consume, and especially of saturated fat consume.
- Weight reduction.
- Relaxing and stress reduction techniques, for example meditation and autogenic training.
- Regular exercise.
SPECIAL FOOD TYPES THAT REDUCE THE BLOOD PRESSURE
Research projects suggest that the following food types reduce blood pressure.
- Fish oil and fat fish. The working substances seem to be the omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The effect from fish oil seems to cease when the fish oil supplements are stopped.
- Olive oil, especially olive oil of the quality extra virgin.
NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS TO HELP AGAINST HYPERTENSION
Natural supplements to treat hypertension exist. These supplements reduce blood pressure by lowering the cholesterol and lipid content in the blood, by preventing oxidation of tissue components by free radicals, and by helping damaged blood vessels to heal. Examples of ingredients having these effects are vitamin B3, inositol, turmenic extract and gum guggul extract.
They may also contain Ingredients giving a direct anti-hypertensive effect, like potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and fatty acids from marine sources.
MEDICAL TREATMENT OF HYPERTENSION
When lifestyle measures and supplements are not enough to cure the condition, medical treatment must be applied.
Diuretics, or medicines to increase the urine production, are used to decrease the water content in the blood vessels, and thereby reduce the pressure in the vessels. When the water content is lowered, the heart does not need to pump so hard any more, and this will also reduce the pressure.
Beta-adrenergic blockers are another group of medicines to treat hypertension. This group of medicines block the signals that hormones and neurotransmitters give to the vessel walls, and the vessel walls then relax. They also slow down the heart rate to give a lower pressure exerted by the heart upon the blood.