WHAT IS HYPERTENSION?
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is defined as a blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic.
CAUSES OF HYPERTENSION
9 out of 10 people who have hypertension do not have any apparent reason for it. However, people who are overweight, smoke, eat salty and fatty food regularly, consume alcohol excessively, physically inactive, suffer frequent stress, or have a family history of hypertension are generally at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
Common complications of uncontrolled blood pressure are as below:
· Stroke - Very high pressure can cause a break in a weakened blood vessel, which then bleeds in the brain. If a blood clot blocks one of the narrowed arteries, it can also cause a stroke.
· Eyesight impairment - High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the eye to burst or bleed. Vision may become blurred or otherwise impaired and can result in blindness.
· Atherosclerosis - As people get older, arteries throughout the body ‘harden’, especially those in the heart, brain, and kidneys. High blood pressure is associated with these ‘stiffer’ arteries. This in turn, causes the heart and kidneys to work harder.
· Kidney disease - The kidneys act as filters to rid the body of wastes. Over time, high blood pressure can cause the kidneys to filter less fluid, and waste builds up in the body. When the kidneys fail, medical treatment (dialysis) or a kidney transplant may be needed.
· Heart attack - The arteries bring oxygen-carrying blood to the heart muscle. If the heart cannot get enough oxygen, chest pain, also known as ‘angina’, can occur. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to heart muscle is blocked.
· Congestive heart failure - A serious condition where the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body's needs. Sluggish movement of blood will cause water retention in the body especially in the lungs, abdomen and feet.
You can prevent high blood pressure by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Taking steps to lower your blood pressure can reduce your risk of getting heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
Tips to a healthy lifestyle:
· maintain a healthy weight
· be physically active
· follow a healthy eating plan
· drink alcoholic beverages in moderation
· quit smoking
· reduce your stress level
In cases where lifestyle changes are not enough, drug therapy may be needed. Healthy lifestyle changes and drug therapy must all work hand-in-hand to take effect.
Medications that are used to treat hypertension are called antihypertensives, as listed below:
- ACE inhibitors
- Beta blockers
- Calcium-channel antagonists
- Angiotensin II antagonists
- Alpha blockers
- Combine alpha/beta blockers
- Centrally acting drugs
- Direct vasodilators
- Combined drugs
1. Clinical Practice Guideline/Consensus, Malaysian Hypertension Consensus Guideline, Ministry of Health Malaysia, 2008.
2. Malaysian Statistics on Medicine, Pharmaceutical Service Division and the Clinical Research Centre, Ministry of Health, Malaysia, 2005.
3. Medicines Compendium, Datapharm Communications Ltd., 2002