Before speaking about hypertension, we should know that our blood pressure is recorded by two numbers: the systolic blood pressure (SBP), higher number, and the diastolic blood pressure (DPB), lower one. The first value represents the force with which the heart pumps blood all around the body through vessels, called arteries; while the second one is the resistance offered by the blood vessels to the blood flow. Both these values are expressed in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and measured by a tool called sphygmomanometer.

In general, we can claim that hypertension, or high blood pressure, is defined as the rise of the SBP over 140mmHg and/or over 90mmHg for DBP.

Hypertension is not considered a disease per sè, but more as a risk factor, which, if untreated, may elevate the chance of developing serious problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, heart failure. For this reason, it ought to be detected and treated as soon as possible, in order to prevent life-threatening health conditions. Then, it is clear that checking blood pressure periodically is fundamental to prevent more serious problems.

Hypertension may be divided in two main classes: primary hypertension (95%) and secondary hypertension (5%).

In primary hypertension, or essential hypertension, the increase of blood pressure values might be caused by the alteration of complex mechanisms which usually regulate it, such as nervous system or hormones. An increased risk of developing hypertension might be observed in:

  • People over the age of 65
  • People overweight or affected by metabolic syndrome or diabetes
  • People who have at least a relative suffering from high blood pressure
  • People who eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
  • People used to drink too much alcohol or coffee or smokers
  • People with sleeping problems or stress

Then secondary hypertension might be related to an underlying disease, which might be related to kidneys, adrenals, vessels or heart. In other cases, the chronic use of certain type of drugs or food might increase blood pressure: this is the case for liquorice, birth control pill, cortisone and abuse substances.

Unfortunately, the increase of the blood pressure usually does not cause any signs. Indeed, our body is able to cope with the blood pressure rise. For this reason, most of the patients diagnosed with hypertension do not complain about any symptoms or they suffer occasionally from unspecific ones, such as headache, dizziness, tinnitus, sight disturbances or nose bleeding. It might cause a delay in diagnosis, increasing the risk of developing much more serious cardiovascular events.

Healthy lifestyle has been demonstrated effective to lower the blood pressure and it is also able to prevent hypertension onset. Moreover, in case of a diagnosis of hypertension, doctor might decide to prescribe 1 or more drugs keeping under control blood pressure, which represents the most important therapeutic goal for the long term.

It is important to remember that anti-hypertensive treatment is a chronic therapy, which should be administered every day for a life long period.

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