Blood pressure is measured using the systolic pressure (the force of the heart pumping the blood) and the diastolic pressure (the resistance of the blood to this flow). Each of these is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). High blood pressure (hypertension) is a measurement of 140/90mmHg or above, though this can vary between people. Having hypertension can have harmful effects on the body, which will be explored below.
The Effects of Hypertension on the Heart
Having hypertension is dangerous for the body, as it increases the effort needed from the heart to effectively pump blood, thus putting strain on key organs, particularly the heart. The primary health conditions imposed by hypertension on the heart are heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. The arteries leading from the heart carry blood to the rest of the body, when the pressure is too high, they are strained, leading to a loss of elasticity. The loss of elasticity can cause a decrease in blood flow to the heart, which causes eventually lead to heart attacks.
The Dangers of Hypertension for Other Key Organs
Hypertension can potentially be fatal, as it can cause many health conditions throughout the body. Some of the main areas affected by blood pressure are the brain, kidneys, and blood vessels. For the brain, an increased blood pressure means an increased risk of a clot, reducing blood flow to the brain, which can lead to a stroke. This can be fatal, and stroke sufferers are often left with long-term health problems.
Treating Hypertension with Medicine
If recommended by a doctor, some medicines can be used to help reduce and treat hypertension. The group of medicines used to treat this condition is known as antihypertensives. There are many of these drugs available, with the main few being:
Diuretics, which reduce the excess water and salt in the blood; Beta-Blockers, which block the chemicals controlling heart rate and cause the heart to beat with less force; Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors, which reduce the production of the hormone that causes the blood vessels to narrow; Calcium Channel Blockers, which reduce the calcium flow through the body, meaning the blood vessels can be more relaxed, with the heart being required to pump with less strength.
The best way of stopping hypertension is through lifestyle changes, preventing the condition before it begins. Smaller, mini strokes can occur due to raised blood pressure, which can ultimately lead to vascular dementia, which is currently incurable. Within the kidney, the small blood vessels must be able to properly function without strain. Hypertension can reduce the working function of these blood vessels, leading to the kidney being unable to properly process the blood. Higher blood pressure can also cause Peripheral Arterial Disease (restricting blood supply to the legs) and Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (threatening a rupture in the aortic vessel).
Despite being a dangerous health condition, for many people, hypertension can be easily avoided and maintained with various lifestyle changes. A key change that can be made is diet, as reducing the intake of salt, alcohol, and caffeine, while maintaining a healthy general diet, will lower blood pressure. Exercising and weight loss are also effective ways of reducing blood pressure, as they strengthen the heart and lighten the strain. A stronger heart is capable of pumping the blood with less effort, which reduces the arterial strain. Another high-risk factor for blood pressure is smoking, as nicotine raises the heart rate and blood pressure, while narrowing arteries and reducing their elasticity. This causes a lot of stress on the heart leading to an increased risk of diseases.