Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a common and serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. But what causes hypertension? And how can you prevent or treat it?
In this article, we will explore the top 10 risk factors that can cause hypertension, and what you can do to lower your blood pressure and improve your health.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 140 mmHg or higher, or a diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of 90 mmHg or higher. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood throughout your body. If this force is too high, it can damage your arteries and organs over time.
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” because it usually does not cause any noticeable symptoms until it reaches a very high level or causes complications. Some people may experience headaches, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, or vision problems, but these are not specific to hypertension and may be caused by other conditions. The only way to know if you have hypertension is to measure your blood pressure regularly with a device called a sphygmomanometer.
What are the risk factors for hypertension?
There are many factors that can influence your blood pressure, some of which are modifiable and some of which are not. Here are the top 10 risk factors for hypertension that you should be aware of:
As you get older, your blood vessels tend to become stiffer and narrower, which can increase your blood pressure. About half of people over 60 have hypertension.
2. Family history:
If you have a parent or sibling with hypertension, you are more likely to develop it yourself. This may be due to genetic factors or shared environmental factors.
Hypertension is more common and more severe among people of African descent than among people of other races. This may be due to genetic factors, socioeconomic factors, or dietary factors.
Being overweight or obese can increase your blood pressure by putting extra strain on your heart and arteries. It can also cause hormonal changes that affect your blood pressure regulation.
5. Physical inactivity:
Lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain, poor circulation, and increased stress levels, all of which can raise your blood pressure. Regular exercise can help lower your blood pressure by strengthening your heart and improving your blood flow.
Smoking can damage your blood vessels and increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood and make your blood more likely to clot.
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure by stimulating your nervous system and interfering with your kidney function. It can also cause dehydration, weight gain, and liver damage.
Eating too much salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sugar can increase your blood pressure by causing fluid retention, inflammation, and plaque buildup in your arteries. Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help lower your blood pressure by providing essential nutrients and antioxidants.
Chronic stress can increase your blood pressure by activating your sympathetic nervous system, which releases hormones that constrict your blood vessels and increase your heart rate. Stress can also lead to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, overeating, or skipping exercise.
10. Medical conditions:
Some medical conditions can cause or worsen hypertension, such as diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, sleep apnea, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), or certain medications.
How can you prevent or treat hypertension?
The best way to prevent or treat hypertension is to address the risk factors that you can modify. Here are some tips that can help you lower your blood pressure and improve your health:
• Monitor your blood pressure regularly and consult your doctor if it is too high.
• Maintain a healthy weight and lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
• Quit smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
• Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
• Reduce your salt intake to less than 2 grams per day and avoid processed foods that are high in sodium.
• Increase your intake of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fiber, which can help regulate your blood pressure.
• Eat a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sugar.
• Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or more if you can. Choose activities that you enjoy and that suit your fitness level.
• Manage your stress levels by practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or massage. Seek professional help if you have mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
• Follow your doctor’s advice and take your prescribed medications as directed. Do not stop or change your medications without consulting your doctor.
Hypertension cannot be cured, but it can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medications. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to serious complications, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or vision loss.
The normal blood pressure range is between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg. If your blood pressure is higher than 120/80 mmHg but lower than 140/90 mmHg, you have prehypertension, which means you are at risk of developing hypertension. If your blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mmHg, you have hypertension, which means you need to take action to lower it.
The best foods to eat for hypertension are those that are low in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sugar, and high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. Some examples are bananas, avocados, spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, oats, quinoa, brown rice, salmon, tuna, sardines, chicken breast, turkey breast, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and dark chocolate.