According to research by the World Health Organization (WHO), published in 2013, hypertension affects more than 1 billion people worldwide. Also called hypertension or high blood pressure, the disease is related to the abnormal increase and for a long period of pressure that the blood makes when circulating through the arteries of the body.
It works like this: before reaching each part of the body, blood is pumped from the heart. This action generates a natural force against the internal walls of the arteries, while the blood vessels act in a resistant way to this passage. So, this dispute determines blood pressure.
To measure the pressure, a device called a sphygmomanometer is used, which is positioned around the arm, with a stethoscope to hear the sounds of the chest. The pressure is shown in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Although we popularly use the term 12 by 8, for example, the real number corresponds to 120 by 80.
When performing the measurement, the result is displayed using two values: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.
Systolic pressure or maximum pressure is the highest value recorded when the heart pumps and releases blood to the body. It is recommended not to exceed 120 mmHg.
Diastolic pressure or minimum pressure is the lowest value, which indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest, which is between one beat and another. In this case, it is recommended to be around 80 mmHg, the so-called “120 by 80” or “12 by 8”.
Blood pressure categories
From these values it is possible to classify them, to obtain a better understanding of the condition and the possible risk, see below:
120 by 80: it is considered excellent;
130 by 85: normal;
130-139 through 85-89: borderline, demands attention and changes in daily habits;
140-159 through 90-99: stage 1 hypertension;
160-179 through 100-109: stage 2 hypertension;
180 by 110: stage 3 hypertension.
Hypertension is a silent disease, which means it is asymptomatic. Usually, when symptoms appear, the disease is already at a more advanced stage, so it is essential to keep the routine of consultations and exams up to date. Among the most common symptoms are:
To diagnose the disease in advance, it is necessary to measure the pressure at least once a year. Also, during consultations, the professional must be informed if there is a relative, such as a father or a mother, who suffers from the problem. This is because family history, as in other diseases, is one of the risk factors.
Other aspects that influence the increase in blood pressure are:
It is worth remembering that people who smoke, who consume alcoholic beverages and have other diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure are susceptible to more serious complications.
High blood pressure risks
Hypertension can lead to several complications, however, the most affected organ is usually the heart. This is because circulation is impaired by the tightening of the coronary arteries, so the organ does not receive enough blood and oxygen. This condition can cause heart attacks.
There is also the possibility of cardiovascular accidents, also known as strokes. This problem arises from two aspects: the accumulation of plaque due to high cholesterol and the constant pressure aggressions, which prevent the dilation of the arteries in the head and promote clogging. Thus, when the pressure is higher than normal, the vessel is completely blocked or ruptures.
A third problem is a likelihood of developing kidney failure, as well as problems with the eyes since there is interference in the vessels that irrigate the retina, causing blurred vision cited as one of the symptoms.
Prevention and treatment
As we always mention here, practicing physical activity is one of the crucial points to prevent not only high blood pressure but several other diseases. Therefore, it is worth leaving a sedentary lifestyle aside and practicing mainly aerobic activities, such as running and swimming. These practices induce the release of nitric oxide, a vasodilating substance, which helps to keep the pressure lower.
Likewise, food also plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of hypertension. It is not by chance that DASH, which refers to “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” was created. In practice, this diet is based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains as a strategy to combat high pressure, as they are rich in nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
On the other hand, attention is needed for sodium consumption, as it retains water. Also according to the WHO, it is recommended an intake maximum of 5 grams of salt per day, equivalent to a teaspoon. However, do not think that it is just a matter of lowering salt during meal preparation. Take into consideration the presence of sodium in the composition of foods such as pastry, frozen, and processed foods.
The treatment is determined by a health professional, who takes into account risk factors and pressure measures. Hypertension has no cure, but treatment helps to control it, so it is of paramount importance to adopt lifestyle changes.
If, after a change in habits, the pressure continues to rise or stabilize at a level considered high, the specialist may recommend blood pressure medications, as well as for dyslipidemia and cardiovascular diseases. In parallel, several studies report positive effects of nutraceuticals as adjuvants in the treatment and, mainly, in the prevention of this disease.
At last, always consult your doctor and do not use medications to control blood pressure without a prescription.