Hypertension – or elevated blood pressure – is a serious medical condition that significantly increases the risks of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases.
Hypertension is called a “silent killer”. Most people with hypertension are unaware of the problem because it may have no warning signs or symptoms. For this reason, it is essential that blood pressure is measured regularly.
When symptoms do occur, they can include early morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms, vision changes, and buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors.
The WHO recommends these five “concrete steps to minimize the odds of developing high blood pressure and its adverse consequences.”
Healthy diet: Promoting a healthy lifestyle with emphasis on proper nutrition for infants and young people; reducing salt intake to less than 5 g of salt per day (just under a teaspoon); eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day; reducing saturated and total fat intake.
Avoid alcohol: The WHO recommends limiting alcohol intake to “no more than one standard drink a day.”
Physical activity: Regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes a day) and maintaining a normal weight can also help. The WHO says that every 5 kg of excess weight lost can “reduce systolic blood pressure by 2 to 10 points.”
Say no to tobacco: Stop using tobacco products as they increase the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease by constricting blood vessels and decreasing oxygen supply to the heart.
Manage stress: It is also important for hypertension patients to manage stress in healthy ways “such as through meditation, appropriate physical exercise, and positive social contact.”
The only way to detect hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure.
Having blood pressure measured is quick and painless. Individuals can also measure their own blood pressure using automated devices, however, an evaluation by a health professional is important for assessment of risk and associated conditions.