Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 2
In this second post of the series on the scourge of Hypertension, let us understand the relevance of diagnosis of Hypertension and why delaying the treatment can prove hazardous for an individual's health. The subsequent posts will deal with information on prevention, details on diet, exercise and stress management techniques.
The Right Diagnosis
As mentioned in my earlier post, high blood pressure is a condition where the long-term pressure of the blood against the artery walls is so high that it can cause serious health problems.
According to health guidelines, a normal blood pressure reading is less than or equal to 120/80 mmHg. Most of the time there are no specific symptoms for high blood pressure, thus making it all the more important to have regular check-ups to prevent any development of heart and kidney diseases.
The only way to diagnose high blood pressure is to get it tested. It's a simple, non-invasive and painless test done by health care professionals at clinic/office or in a health camp.
The instrument used to measure the blood pressure is known as sphygmomanometer, commonly known as blood pressure monitor. It comprises of a stethoscope, gauge and an arm cuff.
Home blood pressure monitors are also available easily but they aren't a substitute for your doctor visits and may not be very accurate.
Guidelines to prepare for the test
It's important to follow certain steps before getting the blood pressure checked.
- Don't drink coffee or smoke cigarettes for 30 minutes prior to the test.
- Go to the bathroom before the test.
- Sit for five minutes before the test.
Don't panic if you were detected with one high reading. Blood pressure may increase or decrease depending on the activity, heart condition, emotions, stress levels and certain medications. Thus, it is essential that you rest comfortably for at least five minutes.
As the blood pressure varies in different situations, at least three readings taken on different days and timings, even venues like home or office; should be considered before confirming that it's elevated.
A physical examination and review of your medical history is taken on detection of any type of high blood pressure. Risk factors like smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, family history of any hypertension or heart disease, etc are also assessed.
What other tests will you need?
The doctor may also recommend routine urine tests, bloods tests, cholesterol tests and an ECG (electrocardiogram) to check for any sign of heart or kidney disease.
The stress or fear of visiting a doctor in a hospital environment leads to high blood pressure readings termed as 'White Coat Hypertension'. This type is diagnosed by reviewing readings taken in the office and at any other place. Surprisingly the readings are elevated only when taken in the hospital set up.
Since it's an easily accessible test, even if you don't fall in the riskier category, do get your blood pressure checked at regular intervals.
Consequences of a Delayed Diagnosis and Treatment
One cannot afford to neglect a checkup and subsequent treatment in instances of high blood pressure readings. From an uncomplicated symptom like difficulty in understanding to a fatal stroke, untreated high blood pressure can spell disaster. Following are some of the complications of untreated or uncontrolled hypertension.
Heart attack or Stroke
High blood pressure or hypertension places a lot of stress on vital organs like heart, kidneys, eyes which deteriorate over a period of time. It can cause atherosclerosis (hardening and thickening of the blood vessels) which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The symptoms of stroke are sudden onset of weakness, numbness or paralysis of face, arms or legs or slurring of speech.
High blood pressure can weaken the arterial wall causing an aneurysm which is an excessive localized enlargement of an artery. If it ruptures, it can be life threatening.
Hypertension increases the heart's workload. The heart muscles thicken over a period of time causing left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). Without treatment, this causes heart failure. The common symptoms include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, swelling in the ankle, feet or legs and neck veins.
Chronic Kidney Disease
When weakened and narrowed blood vessels abrupt the normal functioning of the kidneys due to persistent high blood pressure, it could result in kidney failure.
Damage to the eye
Vision changes or blindness due to thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes due to uncontrolled high blood pressure.
your ability to think, remember and learn can get affected due to uncontrolled hypertension. Memory loss, difficulty in concentrating or understanding concepts is also common.
This is more commonly found in men with hypertension especially those who smoke.
A cluster of disorders of the body's metabolism like obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL (high density lipoprotein or 'good') cholesterol, high blood pressure and high insulin levels. This could further lead to development of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
High blood pressure and certain medications can increase the risk of developing diabetes.
Please do keep in mind that the above mentioned complications are byproducts of untreated high blood pressure which is otherwise a symptomless disease. The intention to mention the complications in details is to create awareness towards this common 'Silent Killer'.
A few simple preventive measures and having a healthy lifestyle (detailed steps in my subsequent post) will definitely keep not just the complications but also the disease at bay, for sure!!
Also read other articles in this series for complete and practical step-by-step solutions.
The above article is for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment for any symptoms/ailments.