Blood Pressure: A Silent Killer

Introduction

The blood in the arteries exerts pressure on its walls. This pressure is known as blood pressure. There are two factors responsible for blood pressure: pumping of blood through arteries ( by the heart) and the opposition of arteries to flow of blood through them. Blood pressure is given in two numbers, separated by a slash. The first number( the higher one) is called systolic and it represents the pressure while the heart contracts to pump blood to the body. The second number( the lower one) is called diastolic and it represents the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats. Blood pressure of 118/76 is read as ‘ 118 over 76’ and means systolic = 118, diastolic = 76 . All the figures are for mmHg ( millimeters of mercury).

The optimal blood pressure for adults is that below 120 over 80 mmHg. A systolic pressure between 120 to 139 mmHg or a diastolic pressure between 80 to 89 mmHg is categorized as ” prehypertension ” and needs to be watched carefully. The blood pressure of 140 over 90 comes under the category of High blood pressure.

Symptoms And Diagnosis

Usually, high blood pressure has no symptoms. A person can have blood pressure for years without knowing it. This fact has earned it the sobriquet – ‘silent killer’. The medical term for high blood pressure is hypertension. Contrary to popular belief, hypertension does not mean being tense, nervous or hyperactive. A person may be calm & relaxed and still have high blood pressure. A single elevated blood pressure does not mean that the person has high blood pressure. Rather it’s a sign that further observation is required. Your doctor can tell you how often your blood pressure is to be checked. Generally blood pressure is checked at least once every two years or more often. Even reading lower than optimal should be reported to the doctor as it may have some medical cause.

Cause

Diseases like kidney disease can cause high blood pressure. However, in 90% to 95% of cases , doctors are not able to find the cause for high blood pressure.

Prevention

A healthy lifestyle will go a long way in preventing high blood pressure. Healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, healthy eating habits, intake of fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods, consuming less salt and sodium. Also, if you drink then it should be in moderation.

Treatment

When a person is detected to be suffering from high blood pressure, the first attempt to control it is through changes in diet and lifestyle. However, when these attempts fail, doctor has to take recourse to medications. The medicines available are diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors,…