Hypertension: painless, but highly dangerous

In the fight against hypertension, regular controls are key.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, renal failure or peripheral vascular disease. This is why it is important to be aware of one’s own blood pressure so as to treat a possible case of hypertension as soon as possible.

In Switzerland, an estimated 20 to 25% of the population is at risk of hypertension. About half of this group is not aware of it. As regards those who know about it, only half of them are getting treated for it, while another 50% only is receiving a very adequate treatment.

Early control is key

Cardiologists agree on one thing: from the age of 20 years onward, a person should know his or her blood pressure. In case of a normal blood pressure, a control measurement should be performed every 5 years. The statistical probability for high pressure corresponds approximately to the age in years: around half of people aged 50 and 80% of people in their 80s suffer from hypertension. As regards younger people, this rule does not apply entirely, the values are usually quite lower. However, should the family-related risk be higher, such as in a family where a parent died of a heart attack at a younger age, it is very important to assess the blood pressure as well as the cholesterol level of the family members, starting in teenage years and not wait until the person is 50 years old.

Mostly asymptomatic

One of the pitfalls of hypertension is that it often goes unnoticed. Most people afflicted with hypertension show absolutely no symptoms, or if at all, then rather unspecific symptoms such as a headache. For this reason, if you wish to know where you stand in terms of blood pressure, then you must measure it. Nowadays there is no need to go to a physician to do this; a blood pressure device can be obtained that allows you to measure your blood pressure at home. The measurements should lie under 135/85 (under140/90 if measured by a physician). In case the physician establishes a high blood pressure, the patient may be required to perform measurements from home as well. This may help to rule out the “white shirt effect”, which in some cases induces false results when measurements are done in the presence of medical staff.

Risk factors for hypertension

  • smoking, chronic alcohol consumption
  • family history
  • age
  • diabetes I or II
  • salty and fatty food
  • chronic stress
  • medication (ex. Cortisone, weight loss products, etc.)
  • licorice
  • drug consumption (cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamine, etc.)

Medication and a healthy lifestyle

Which medication is best for a given patient when treating hypertension is very individual. In the process of finding out which medication is best appropriate, it is sometimes necessary to try a few different ones. However, it is important to keep in mind that not only medication helps, but a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, healthy nutrition, and avoiding stress can all contribute to reducing blood pressure – as long as it is done in a consequent manner.

Text: Medical Tribune public / MyHandicap
Translation from German: MyHandicap

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