What is blood pressure?
Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in blood vessels. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) as it is pumped by the heart.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. The higher the pressure in blood vessels the harder the heart has to work in order to pump blood. If left uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to a heart attack, an enlargement of the heart and eventually heart failure. The pressure in the blood vessels can also cause blood to leak out into the brain. This can cause a stroke. Hypertension can also lead to kidney failure, blindness, rupture of blood vessels and cognitive impairment.
How is blood pressure defined
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and is recorded as two numbers usually written one above the other. The upper number is the systolic blood pressure -the highest pressure in blood vessels and happens when the heart contracts, or beats. The lower number is the diastolic blood pressure -the lowest pressure in blood vessels in between heartbeats when the heart muscle relaxes. Normal adult blood pressure is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 120 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg.
Causes of blood pressure
Consumption of food containing too much salt and fat, and not eating enough fruit and vegetables, harmful levels of alcohol use, physical inactivity and lack of exercise, poor stress management.
Symptoms of blood pressure
Most hypertensive people have no symptoms at all. Sometimes hypertension causes symptoms such as headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, palpitations of the heart and nose bleeds. Hypertension is a serious warning sign that significant lifestyle changes are required.
Detection and treatment
Early detection of hypertension can minimise the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. Digital blood pressure measurement machines enable this to be done outside clinic settings. For some people, lifestyle changes are not sufficient for controlling blood pressure and prescription medication is needed.
(With inputs from World Health Organisation)
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