What is Hypertension? These Facts Will Help You Understand the Condition Better

Untreated elevated blood pressure is harmful to your overall health. Discover facts, risks, and how you can effectively manage hypertension.

Doctor checking a woman’s pressure using a sphygmomanometer

Hypertension is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in Malaysia, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019. 

In fact, the survey finds that 3 out of 10 Malaysians – about 6.4 million people – have hypertension. Many cases below the age of 30 occur in males. But what is hypertension?

Here we discuss hypertension, the risk factors of hypertension and some of the steps that you can take to keep the condition in check effectively.

4 Non-Modifiable Risk Factors of Hypertension

Hungry Asian woman licks red painted lips looks at tasty hamburger
The consumption of high-calorie foods is a modifiable risk factor of hypertension.

Simply put, hypertension is a persistent elevation of systolic blood pressure of 140mmHg or greater, and/or diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or greater. 

Early identification of hypertension risk factors can help a person determine the steps they need to manage a condition. On the contrary, unmanaged hypertension can trigger an aneurysm, a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and bleeding in the eyes. Hypertension can also make you susceptible to cardiovascular diseases. 

The risk factors of hypertension can be broken down into two categories — modifiable and non-modifiable. Modifiable risk factors can be changed through the practice of healthy or unhealthy lifestyle habits. Non-modifiable risk factors, on the other hand, cannot be influenced by any intervention.

Family history of hypertension

If your parents or blood relatives have been previously diagnosed with hypertension, there’s a high chance that you might be diagnosed with the condition as well.

Unhealthy eating habits

A diet that contains too much salt, extreme amounts of calories, saturated and trans-fat, and sugar can put you at an increased risk of hypertension.

Living with a co-existing medical condition

Chronic diseases like diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea can also make a person vulnerable to hypertension.  

Similarly, taking medication for managing or treating certain health disorders can increase the risk of hypertension and exacerbate existing health problems.

For instance, ibuprofen, which belongs to the class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can cause hypertension and kidney damage, worsen the symptoms of heart failure, or trigger a heart attack or stroke

In addition, some cold and cough medicines may also contain decongestants, such as phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. This can increase your blood pressure and heart rate by constricting the arteries in your body.

Excessive stress

Stressors like socioeconomic status and psychosocial stress can cause you to indulge in unhealthy habits that can increase your blood pressure. These include a poor diet, lack of physical activity, cigarette or tobacco smoking, and excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. 

Stress causes the body to release adrenaline and cortisol. Together with the direct actions of autonomic nerves, stress can cause the heart to beat faster and the respiration rate to increase. It can also cause the blood vessels in the arms and legs to dilate, digestive processes to change, and glucose levels in the bloodstream to increase. Moreover, chronic stress experienced over a prolonged period can increase a person’s risk of heart and blood vessel disorders. This includes hypertension, heart attack or stroke.

4 Ways to Manage Hypertension Better

Healthy lifestyle concept with diet and fitness
A healthy diet and regular exercise can help regulate your blood pressure.

Being diagnosed with hypertension is not the be-all, end-all. Committing to a healthier lifestyle can help regulate your blood pressure. It can also lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases, kidney damage, sexual dysfunction, and vision loss.

1. Consume a heart-healthy diet

A diet that is beneficial for heart health should consist of fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, and skinless poultry and fish. You should also consume low-fat dairy products, non-tropical vegetable oils, nuts and legumes, and whole grains. 

Alternatively, if you wish to eat red meat, you should look for lean cuts. It’s also crucial for you to stay away from foods that are rich in sodium, saturated and trans-fat, as well as sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. Drinking a herbal formulation brewed with dried hawthorn slices can help stabilise blood pressure and ease anxiety symptoms.

2. Become more physically active

It is common knowledge that regular exercise is perfect for your health. Aerobic activity is beneficial in strengthening your heart and lungs and promoting good blood circulation. 

Aiming for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises like brisk walking, cycling or Zumba daily is ideal. Be sure to include flexibility and stretching exercises and at least two muscle-strengthening activities as part of your weekly routine. Consuming aspartame and sugar-free supplement before a workout can help to enhance your performance by increasing energy levels and stimulating mental focus.

3. Manage stress

Beautiful Asian adult woman wearing jeans clothes working as a carpenter
Working on a passion project is effective to help with stress, a risk factor of hypertension.

The first step towards effective stress management is to accept that you don’t have the answer to all of life’s predicaments. Acceptance is vital for helping you channel your energy towards activities that keep stress levels in check. 

For instance, you should do away with feelings of inadequacy and instead learn how to express gratitude. Showing gratitude can help you be content with your quality of life and, in turn, alleviate stress. 

Taking the time to pursue passion projects can also provide stress relief whilst giving you an outlet for creative expression. At the same time, if stress is impairing your work performance, you can consume a herbal tonic that contains essence of chicken and ginkgo biloba extract. Taking this tonic can sharpen your thinking skills and help you stay focused. The tonic works by enhancing blood circulation and suppressing the free radicals associated with brain ageing.

4. Take your prescription medication consistently

Adhering to the medication guidelines prescribed by the doctor is necessary for keeping hypertension at bay. Blood pressure medications (also known as anti-hypertensives) can be categorised into several drug classes and work in diverse ways to manage hypertension.

Some anti-hypertensives commonly prescribed include Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics. Diuretics help your body to regulate blood pressure by removing excess sodium and water. 

Beta-blockers help lower blood pressure by reducing your heart rate, the workload placed on your heart and blood output. Meanwhile, ACE inhibitors help the blood vessels relax and open, whereas vasodilators promote better blood flow by relaxing the muscle in blood vessel walls. 

A clearer understanding of what is hypertension can go a long way towards managing the condition effectively. Use the tips laid out in the guide above to regulate your blood pressure and improve your quality of life.

References

  1. UCSF Health. Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). [Accessed 1 August 2021] 
  2. American Heart Association. Know Your Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure. [Accessed 1 August 2021] 
  3. American Heart Association. Managing Blood Pressure with a Heart-Healthy Diet[Accessed 1 August 2021] 
  4. American Heart Association. Getting Active to Control High Blood Pressure. [Accessed 1 August 2021] 
  5. American Heart Association. Types of Blood Pressure Medications[Accessed 1 August 2021] 
  6. Ministry of Health Malaysia. 2013. Clinical Practice Guidelines, Management of Hypertension[Accessed 1 August 2021] 

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