Hypertension: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Hypertension or HTN is another name for high blood pressure, a condition where the arterial blood pressure is elevated to a level above the normal rate and remains elevated most of the times. It is classified as a chronic condition wherein the systolic (blood pressure in the vessels during heartbeats) or the diastolic (blood pressure between the heartbeats) levels are more elevated than the accepted rates. 

Systolic blood pressure level is normally at 120 (peak level) and diastolic level is at 80. When the levels elevate somewhere above 140/90 it denotes a high blood pressure or hypertension. Anything between120 to 139 for systolic and 80 to 89 in diastolic reading is known as pre-hypertension. Anybody with pre-hypertension readings is likely to develop hypertension at a later stage. Because of the elevated rate, the heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood and this can cause severe problems like coronary heart attack, renal failure, aneurysms, loss of vision, stroke, kidney and heart failure etc.

Although there are several types of hypertension, mainly two types are of significance, essential and secondary. In simple terms, when the cause of the hypertension is not known, it is called as essential and when the hypertension is the result of some other underlying issue, like a kidney problem, hormonal imbalance, pregnancy etc., it is known as secondary hypertension.  

Causes of essential hypertension has not been able to be defined in concrete terms, however there have been various factors identified as the underlying causes. 


Stress which ranges from the mild to the extreme, obesity in both males and females, deficiency of vitamin D and potassium, extremely inactive lifestyle, smoking, sodium sensitivity, consumption of fat, alcohol abuse, drug usage and some medications like diet pills and oral contraceptives might be the cause of essential hypertension. Other factors that increase the probability of hypertension are age, diet, race, heredity, lifestyle etc. It has also been determined that the risk of getting blood pressure is significantly higher in men than in women.

Secondary hypertension, as the name suggests, is a result of some other problem which leads to increase in the arterial blood pressure level. The causes of secondary hypertension can lead from renal diseases, kidney problems, sleep disorders (apnea), hormonal problems (hyper or hypo-thyroidism), stress, pregnancy, narrowing of the aorta etc. Secondary hypertension can be treated best by first removing the underlying cause than treating the blood pressure.

Symptoms of hypertension are not always necessarily present or perceptible. It is only during normal medical check-ups that someone might show an elevated blood pressure level. However, there are some indications of this condition which should be taken as warning signals and immediately checked out for signs of hypertension. These symptoms can range from headache, flushing, nosebleeds, dizziness, irregular heartbeats, difficulty in breathing, chest pain, fatigue and blurred vision to nausea and sometimes vomiting. The chronic symptoms of this condition can be serious organ failure, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure etc. 

Most of the times hypertension goes to a chronic stage before being diagnosed and hence a routine check-up of the blood pressure levels is very important.  
Treatment of essential hypertension becomes a little difficult because the causes are unknown, however a complete overhaul of your lifestyle and diet will make a huge difference. Diet, exercises, relaxation therapy, reducing smoking and alcohol use are all important factors to get you towards controlling your blood pressure. 

Apart from making changes in your life, doctor will also prescribe certain medications to bring down the elevated pressure levels to a normal rate. Usually doctors prescribe the medications, keeping in mind your age and any other influential factors and also will set a level to which the pressure should be brought down, before you can discontinue your medications. However, the discontinuation won’t be permanent and you might have to start again with lower doses. 

Apart from medical treatment there are other alternative treatments which have also been found to be helpful in reducing hypertension. Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Acupuncture, Biofeedback etc have been employed by many and supposedly found relief as well. However, the affect of such treatments are not clinically proven. Also the usage of any alternative medicines and home treatments might clash with any other medications, hence a consultation with one’s physician is prudent. 

For secondary hypertension, the treatment of high blood pressure is possible only after the primary cause has been identified and controlled. However, the doctor might give you medications to bring your hypertension levels in check.

There are certain foods which can help in controlling hypertension and can be taken along with any prescribed medications. Also there are other foods which will help to keep hypertension away to a certain extent. Extra virgin olive oil and fish oil has been found to be helpful in reducing the blood pressure levels. Also other foods including garlic, fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C and E, a potassium rich diet, fish and calcium rich food has been known to help in controlling the levels of high blood pressure. It is also important to follow a diet which will help in bringing down the weight in case of one who is obese, because even a slight change in the weight makes a difference.

One needs to make changes in food habits and lifestyle along with taking proper medications to help get a better blood pressure count and to ensure that it does not become chronic. Reducing weight, giving up smoking, doing exercises, controlling sodium intake, following a healthy diet, including foods that are beneficial, combating the stress and anxiety in one’s life and reducing alcohol intake are positive steps one should follow to help in keeping the blood pressure levels in check.


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