Hypertension – Everything You Must Know

hypertension causes, medicines, symptoms

What is hypertension?

As per the medical definition, hypertension or high blood pressure as it is commonly known, is condition when blood flows at a higher force than normal. Blood pressure is categorized in three stages.

Stage 1120-139 Systolic, 80-89 Diastolic
Stage 2160+ Systolic, 100+ Diastolic
Stage 3180+ Systolic, 110+ Diastolic


Definition of normal blood pressure

Blood pressure can vary widely because of several factors. The same person may have different blood pressure based on his or her physical posture, exertion, sleep or mental state. The normal blood pressure for adults is 120/80 mm Hg. 120 is systolic and 80 is diastolic.

What does diastolic and systolic pressures mean?

Human hearts pump 70 times every minute. This is an average figure. The heart can pump somewhere between 5 to 7 litres of blood every minute.

The heart beats 2.5 billion times and pumps 200 million litres of blood during an average person’s lifetime

The heart expands and contracts, thereby generating a pumping action. Pressure measured when the heart beats is called ‘systolic’ and when the heart rests is called ‘diastolic’. Usually, the systolic number is written before diastolic and read as 120 over 80.

What causes hypertension?

Brief periods of hypertension are caused by physically straining experiences, intense workouts and stress. This usually returns to normal after rest.

Please note, if the blood pressure level is at Stage 3 (refer to stages of hypertension table above), it could be a medical emergency. Immediately call an ambulance service and seek medical attention. 

Hypertension is also caused because of anxiety, heart diseases, age, family history of hypertension, heart diseases or chronic stress. Certain medicines increase blood pressure as a side effect. Please ask your doctor of such possible side effects if you have a past history of hypertension.

Statistics on Hypertension

Indian statistics on hypertension reveal a very interesting aspect. Experts have known for long that stress and anxiety are primary causes of all reported cases of hypertension and the numbers speak the same story.  In India, 33% of the urban population are hypertensive compared to 25% in villages.  Naturally the city life is more stressful hence the numbers. However, the rural population is largely unaware of their blood pressure levels so the numbers do not tell a complete story.

 According to data published by The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (US), 1,100 deaths occur each day because of hypertension.

In India, 57% of all stroke related deaths and 24% of all coronary heart disease deaths are caused by hypertension. The scenario is far more worrisome in the United States.

The US loses 48.6 billion dollars because of lost work time, medical expenses, medications and health care services. No such data is available for the Indian population.

doctorRegular health checkup. Watch your BP
diagnosisNo clear symptoms, very deceptive, keep a close watch on your BP
ageAge group 19-40 & 41-60+ mostly affected
injectionMay lead to life threatening health conditions if untreated

Health risks associated with hypertension

High blood pressure leads to several heath issues, several of which are life threatening. Here are 5 of the common ones that you need to be aware of.

  1. Stroke: The brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients for the lack of proper blood supply which may cause a mini stroke (transient ischemic attack) or a major stroke.
  1. Kidney failure: If blood doesn’t reach to the kidneys properly, the kidney will not be able to filter waste leading to fluid and waste accumulation in the body.
  1. Erectile dysfunction: In men lack of blood flow to the penis causes erectile dysfunction. Even men with high blood pressure complain of related problems. In women, effects are seen in reduced sexual desire, vaginal dryness and difficulty in achieving orgasm.

Common drugs used for treating hypertension

  • Diuretics

Amount of fluid in the body adds to the blood pressure and urination helps in lowering fluid and sodium content. Diuretics promotes urination and help in lowering blood pressure.

  • Vasodilators

Medicines such as Hydralazine and Minoxidil are vasodilators which relaxes blood vessels thereby reducing blood pressure. These are usually used in severe cases.

  • Alpha 2 receptors

This is the oldest medicine that was used for the first time 50 years ago. Recently, the use of alpha 2 receptors have decreased. Methyldopa, which is the common name, is used in gestational hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy)  because it is comparatively safer on the fetus.

quick-tipPrevention is better than cure! Hypertension can be managed. Make healthy lifestyle choices and check BP regularly.

Besides medicines, hypertension can be managed and kept under control with some simple lifestyle changes.

More topics on Hypertension
How to deal with hypertension without medicines
Further Reading (External Resources)
WHO Global Health Data