High Blood Pressure: Causes and Treatment

By Matthias Samuel

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood out to the body and contributes to hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, to stroke, kidney disease, and sometimes to heart failure. An optimal blood pressure level is a reading under 120/80 mmHg. Readings over 120/80mmHg and up to 139/89mmHg are in the normal to high range.

The National Health Survey of Pakistan estimated that hypertension affects 18% of adults and 33% of adults above 45 years old. In another report, it was shown that 18% of people in Pakistan suffer from hypertension with every third person over the age of 40 becoming increasingly vulnerable to a wide range of diseases. It was also mentioned that only 50% of the people with hypertension were diagnosed and that only half of those diagnosed were ever treated.

Causes of high blood pressure

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much salt in the diet
  • Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
  • Stress
  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • Sleep apnea

Treatment of high blood pressure

Exercise regularly can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again. If you have elevated blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid developing hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.

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Eat a healthy diet, eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg. Keep a food diary and Reduce sodium in your diet.

Quit smoking and Cut back on caffeine. Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure.