Hypertension is a long-term medical condition, wherein the blood pressure in the arteries is constantly high.
Blood pressure is reflected by two measurements – the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is the maximum blood pressure and happens during the contraction of the left ventricle of the heart. On the other hand, the diastolic blood pressure is the minimum blood pressure and occurs during the relaxation of the left ventricle.
The systolic blood pressure is considered normal if it is below 120, according to Web MD. Systolic blood pressure between 120 to 139 means that one has prehypertension, or borderline high blood pressure. According to the publication, people with prehypertension also have higher risk of having a heart disease.
In normal body physiology, healthy arteries have smooth inner walls. The blood flows through the blood vessels without any disruption, not to mention that blood vessels are strong and flexible. However, in hypertension, blood flows through the arteries with force that is higher than normal. Interestingly, the increase force from the blood flow cannot be easily felt. The pressure damages the arterial walls, leading them to lose their smoothness. When this happens, the rough spots in the arteries allow fat and calcium to build up and become plaque, which progresses to the narrowing of the arteries called atherosclerosis. Upon aging, the arterial walls also lose their elasticity and they become harder. This hardening of the arteries is called arteriosclerosis. With the narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels, there will be a greater pressure in the blood flow in the arterial walls.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), common symptoms of hypertension or high blood pressure are dizziness, facial flushing or redness of the face, sweating, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping. Headaches and nosebleeds may also occur, as well as the presence of blood spots in the eyes called subconjunctival hemorrhage.
Management of hypertension or high blood pressure includes pharmacological treatment and lifestyle modifications.
According to Mayo Clinic, medications used to manage hypertension include beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics, along with renin inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs).
Beta blockers are medications that aim to reduce the workload of the heart and dilate or increase the opening of the blood vessels. These actions result to the decrease in the heartbeat and force of the blood flow, thus lowering high blood pressure. Beta blockers are usually combined with other blood pressure medications, since they do not work well when prescribed alone. Examples of beta blockers are atenolol (Tenormin), and acebutolol (Sectral), among others.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors act in the management of high blood pressure by producing a natural chemical to relax blood vessels. Aside from hypertension, these medications are also utilized in the management of chronic kidney disease. Captopril (Capoten), Iisionpril (Zestril), and benazepril (Lotensin) are examples of ACE inhibitors.
Calcium channel blockers manage hypertension by relaxing the muscles of the blood vessels. Some blockers also reduce the heart rate. This category of hypertensive medications is the preferred medication for older people than ACE inhibitors. Examples of calcium channel blockers include diltiazem (Tiazac, Cardizem) and amlodipine (Norvasc), among others.
Diuretics, which are sometimes called water pills, lower high blood pressure by helping then kidneys decrease blood volume by increasing the elimination of sodium and water. Aside from hypertension, diuretics are used to manage heart congestion and edema. Examples of thiazide diuretics include chlorthalidone, and hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide), among others.
While medications are available to manage hypertension, the condition can be prevented through lifestyle modifications, which include low sodium and low fat diet, proper exercise, adequate rest and sleep, reduced stress, and decreased alcohol and cigarette consumption, as per Web MD.
Overall, high blood pressure poses a threat to a person’s health; thus, medical attention should be done if the symptom is experienced.