Hypertension, also known as the ‘Silent Killer’ as it has no symptoms to indicate that something is wrong. But what exactly is hypertension and how can you prevent it?
Hypertension is a common condition which if untreated can cause a range of serious health issues, including heart attacks, blindness and strokes.
High blood pressure is not something you can feel. There are usually no warning signs, and so you may not know you have it. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure levels checked on a regular basis, especially if you have started taking new medication, since you were diagnosed with hypertension as it can lead to more serious health problems. The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked by your doctor and it's a common practice when visiting hospitals in South East Asia.
The World Health Organisation has forecast that by the year 2025 there could be 1.56 billion people who will suffer from hypertension. Each year raised blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths worldwide.
What is Blood Pressure?
Your blood pressure reading is defined by two numbers, the systolic and diastolic numbers.
Systolic blood pressure, the higher number, is measuring the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
Diastolic blood pressure, the lower number, is measuring the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
Ideal readings are in the 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg range. If your readings are 140/90mmHg or higher you are considered to have high blood pressure. A reading between these two ranges may mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure and so you should take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
It’s important to note that everyone has a slightly different blood pressure readings and you must consider what is normal for you.
What Causes Hypertension?
Many of the causes of hypertension are related to lifestyle and therefore within our control. Certain unhealthy habits can cause your blood pressure to spike. The main risk factors are:
- Weight: People who are overweight or obese increases the risk.
- Physical activity: People who perform less physical activity tend to have a higher risk.
- Tobacco and alcohol abuse: The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining in the artery walls, so the tobacco can immediately cause high blood pressure, whilst alcohol can temporarily elevate blood pressure; the effect will wear off once you stop drinking and your liver processes alcohol out of your body.
- Diet: Too much salt and too little potassium can cause higher blood pressure.
- Stress: High levels of stress can increase blood pressure.
While we can’t entirely avoid stress, we can reduce the impact it has.
Additional risk factors include:
- Age: Risk of hypertension increases as you age.
- Race: Hypertension is common among people of African heritage.
- Family history: If someone in your family has a history of having high blood pressure, then it tends to run in the family.
How to prevent high blood pressure
The easiest way to prevent high blood pressure is to make healthier lifestyle choices. Make sure that you watch your weight by exercising regularly and improve your healthy eating choices by reducing sodium intake and alcohol consumption. Stress is one of the main causes for high blood pressure, so try to relax and manage your stress levels through meditation, music and exercise.
Treatment for Hypertension
If you’re diagnosed with hypertension then your doctor is likely to recommend that you choose a healthier lifestyle such as eating less sodium and avoid drinking alcohol and tobacco, but in some cases a lifestyle change is not enough, in addition you may need some medication to control your blood pressure.
If you are prescribed medicine by your doctor, it is important to take your prescriptions as directed by your physician. It is also important to check in with your doctor at least twice a year so that they are able to monitor all your prescriptions and over the counter drugs, as some drugs naturally increase blood pressure when taken regularly, i.e. inhalers for asthma, pain relief and gingko.
Hypertension is a health problem that often shows no symptoms but can lead to severe health complications. It is one of the main causes for death that can happen to anyone. To ensure your blood pressure is under control, check it regularly, and aim to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Interested to read more about other disease? Checkout our blog about common diseases in Thailand.
To protect yourself in case of hypertension, it's important to have comprehensive health insurance. Speak to our consultants today.