To the unfamiliar ear, hypertension may sound like the title of a board game - but this disease is nothing to play with. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the pressure of the blood against the body's artery walls mounts to a degree that it can cause problems within the body. While this level of high blood pressure shows no outward signs or symptoms, it can eventually cause heart disease, diabetes, kidney malfunction and even trouble with memory and comprehension. It is so common that one in three adults in the United States suffers from hypertension.
Without easily detectable symptoms, the best way to diagnose hypertension is during a routine doctor's checkup. For those who suffer from high blood pressure, more frequent monitoring is advised. There are also Smartphone and iPad applications or kits that allow patients to check their blood presure with the same ease that they check their email.
Blood pressure is measured by two numbers: The first, systolic blood pressure, measures the force of the heart beating as it pumps blood. The second, diastolic, gauges the pressure of the heart at rest, between beats. Normal blood pressure is given as 120 over 80, or a pressure of 120 when the heart is beating and a pressure of 80 when resting. If the systolic pressure is over 140, or the diastolic reads more than 90, a patient is considered hypertensive and should consider treatment options.
Medications called antihypertensives help to relieve the amount of pressure on the artery walls. A physician may prescribe one or more of these, usually in combination with a calcium blocker and diuretic, or water pill. These flush excess water and minerals from the body, decreasing high blood pressure.
Patients can prevent hypertension by adopting healthy lifestyle choices. These include not smoking, decreasing the daily intake of salt, consistently exercising and limiting alcohol consumption. Some experts recommend eating certain foods, such as blueberries and whole grains to further decrease blood pressure.
"The best advice I can give to patients concerned about developing hypertension is to understand the contributing factors and eliminate them from their lifestyle," says Dr. Navarra Rodriguez, Chief Medical Officer of Manhattan's Physician Group. "Patients who eat right, exercise often and refrain from smoking are much less likely to suffer from high blood pressure and its effects."
To learn more about hypertension and find which treatment or prevention plan is right for you, speak to your doctor.