High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
What is hypertension?
Hypertension is the medical term for high
blood pressure. Blood pressure depends on how forcefully the heart pumps
the blood around the body and how narrowed or relaxed your arteries are.
Hypertension occurs when blood is forced through the arteries at an increased
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers-
for example, 120/80. The first figure is the systolic blood pressure (the
in the arteries when the heart contracts and pushes the blood out into
the body). The second figure is the diastolic blood pressure (the pressure
in the arteries when the heart is filled with blood as it relaxes between
What causes hypertension?
In the vast majority of cases, the cause
of hypertension is unknown - this is called primary or essential hypertension.
There is an underlying cause in the remaining
cases (called secondary hypertension) - for example, kidney disease, chronic
alcohol abuse, hormonal disturbances and endocrine tumours.
Who is at risk of developing hypertension?
Hypertension can affect anyone but some
factors increase the risk of complications:
history of hypertension
Type 1 or Type 2
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
There are few symptoms of high blood pressure,
and the only way you can find out if you have high blood pressure is by
having it measured by your doctor.
Why should I be concerned if I have
High blood pressure causes silent damage
to the blood vessels and the heart. If untreated, this damage progresses
over time and may cause the following:
(narrowing of the arteries)
aortic aneurysm - expansion of the main artery in the chest
aortic aneurysm expansion of the main artery in the abdomen
How is hypertension diagnosed?
The only way to find out whether you have
high blood pressure is to have it measured - a general figure for normal
blood pressure is a pressure below 140/90 mmHg. Your doctor will measure
your blood pressure using a device called a sphygmomanometer.
If your blood pressure is high, your doctor
may ask you to return for a repeat blood pressure measurement. If this
is also high you may be referred for further tests including ambulatory
(walking around) blood pressure measurement over 24-hours. This will tell
your doctor whether the blood pressure rise is sustained or is a response
to the stress of having your pressure measured. A high blood pressure recording
caused by stress is known as 'white coat hypertension'.
Your doctor may refer you for an examination
of your urine and blood to exclude kidney disease and diabetes mellitus,
and you will have a fasting blood test to determine the level of your cholesterol
and other fats in the blood.
You may also have an electrocardiograph
(ECG) to assess the state of your coronary arteries and the size of the
pumping chamber of your heart, which may enlarge to cope with the high
How is hypertension treated?
In some cases, risk factor modification
may be all that is required. For others, your doctor will recommend a course
of blood pressure lowering tablets, which may include a single tablet a
day, or a combination of two or three different tablets. Even though you
may only have a few symptoms of hypertension it is important that you follow
the prescribed treatment because it will prevent the premature ageing of
your cardiovascular system.
As with all drugs, you may experience
side effects - for example, some drugs that lower blood pressure also affect
your libido (sex drive). Tell your doctor if you are experiencing any discomfort,
as there is a wide range of treatments available and he/she may be able
to change your treatment to one better suited to you.
What can I do?
regular blood pressure tests if you have a family history of hypertension.
a healthy, balanced diet - reduce your intake of salt and foods that
are high in cholesterol (dairy produce, shellfish and poultry).
- Exercise - if
you are overweight reducing your weight will help to lower your blood
your alcohol intake.
stop taking your prescribed medicine without first consulting your doctor.
What is the outlook?
Hypertension can lead to serious complications
if left untreated. However, if you follow the treatment prescribed by your
doctor, these complications can often be avoided.
Visit the irishhealth.com
Heart Disease clinic for more advice and information on high blood