I was asking the difference between “hypertension”, “BP” and “blood pressure” to my sister who has no medical background. She understood the terms BP and blood pressure immediately, but took some time to realize what hypertension means.
Even in the hospital where I study, we refer hypertension as BP or Pressure to the patients, so that they understand.
So I decided to write this article, to clearly explain the difference between the terms “hypertension” , “blood pressure” and few information about them so that people with no medical background can understand these words clearly.
(** This blog is purely for spreading knowledge on human body functions, always check with a Doctor to confirm any diagnosis.)
Lets start with understanding this scenario.
- There is a big field with lots of interconnected tubes going around supplying water to various areas in the field.
- The water comes from a tap present in the centre of the field
- The tube thickness is not the same everywhere in the field. Or lets say the quality of the tube is not the same in all parts of the field. If force of water is more in the poor quality tubes, it’ll break.
- Water is flowing inside the tubes
- The force with which the water enters the tube from the tap varies according to how much we’ve opened the tap. The more we’ve opened the more is the force with which the water flows into the tube.
- And if the tap is closed the water inside will still have some force on the tube, not allowing the tube to collapse.
If you understand this situation just replace some words
Instead of field put body;
instead of tubes put blood vessels ;
instead of water put blood;
instead of tap put heart;
force of the water is nothing but the blood pressure.
So, What is Blood Pressure or BP? –—– Normal thing
Blood Pressure or BP in short; is the pressure that the blood exerts or puts on the blood vessels in which they are travelling around in our body.
Blood pressure is a common finding in every living being. If there is a person with absolutely no or very low blood pressure it sort of means the person is NOT normal or probably dead. So we should always have a normal blood pressure or BP.
Blood pressure is always written as two numbers.
120/80 mm Hg
The first is the systolic blood pressure (120) – pressure in blood vessel when the heart contracts or beats
The second is diastolic blood pressure(80) – pressure in the blood vessel when the heart does not beat or rests between beats.
These pressure values are very important to know, as changes in them will help a doctor to understand whats wrong with a patient. Therefore its important for everyone to know whats the normal blood pressure range?
According to American Heart Association:
- Normal: Systolic Blood pressure less than or equal to 120 mmHg , Diastolic blood pressure less than or equal to 80 mm Hg
- Hypertension : Systolic blood pressure more than 130mmHg , Diastolic blood pressure more than 80mm Hg
- emergency situation: Systolic blood pressure is more than 180 mmHg , Diastolic blood pressure is more than 120 m Hg (should immediately visit the doctor.)
What is Hypertension? ———- Abnormal thing
HYPER means more and TENSION means force. Therefore MORE FORCE/PRESSURE.
Hypertension is high or raised blood pressure. The pressure put on the walls of blood vessels is higher than the normal range.
Hypertension is an abnormal condition ,that will lead to DIS-EASE.
This is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain and kidney and other diseases.
Now what if someone has another extent of very low blood pressure?
On the other hand if the blood pressure is too low(HYPO-TENSION) , sometimes it causes no problems, but extremely low blood pressure can be life threatening.
The causes for low blood pressure vary from simple dehydration to serious medical disorders.
Symptoms of low blood pressure include dizziness, light headedness, fainting, blurred vision, fatigue, loss of concentration.
What causes hypertension?
A study by WHO has stated clearly what increases the risk or causes of hypertension.
The causes can be modifiable or non modifiable factors.
Non -Modifiable factors include:
- AGE-With increase in age, there is increase in blood pressure. Then what is the normal blood pressure by age.So the normal BP of an elderly man will be higher compared to a young adult man. Its totally normal and can be regarded as natural thing given there is no other risk factors.Similarly the BP of a young child will be less than an adult and its considered as normal.
- SEX-There are differences in between the risk of hypertension based on sexes as other factors like age also play a major role in this situation.For example, young and middle aged men tend to be more prone to have hypertension than women in that age. However, some studies show that elderly post menopausal women are more prone to hypertension that their male counterparts.
- GENETIC FACTORS-Twin studies, family studies etc, have given a considerable evidence that genetic factors also play an important role in determining the risk of developing hypertension
- ETHNICITY OR RACE– Population studies have consistently revealed higher blood pressure levels among different ethnic groups
- OTHER DISEASE CONDITIONS -Presence of diabetes or any kidney disease is a risk of developing high blood pressure
Modifiable factors include:
- OBESITY-The greater the weight gain, the greater the risk of high blood pressure.
- SALT INTAKE-High salt intake increases blood pressure proportionately
- SATURATED FAT-High saturated fat content in body increases blood pressure
- DIETARY FIBER-The more dietary fiber you have the less chances of getting hypertension
- ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO-High alcohol and tobacco (chewing or smoking) intake is associated with risk of high blood pressure
- PHYSICAL ACTIVITY-Sedentary life style increases the risk of high blood pressure
- ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS-Sometimes stress and tension in life might also contribute to hypertension
- SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS-There are variations in the blood pressure among the high and the low socio-economic groups based on the economic status of the country they are in.
- OTHER FACTORS-Research have been going on how other factors like noise, temperature and humidity might also contribute to hypertension.Some drugs like oral contraceptive pills are also known contributors of hypertension
COMPLICATIONS OF HYPERTENSION:
According to a survey 33% urban and 25 % rural Indians are hypertensive. But sadly only one fifth of the urban and one tenth of the rural Indian hypertensive population have their BP under control.
Another issue is that many people don’t even know they have hypertension, because they don’t have any symptoms. No symptoms does not always mean we are normal.
As mentioned in the THE FIELD example, blood vessel thickness is not the same throughout the body. Blood vessels to the heart , brain and kidney are very small and delicate. Therefore increase in blood pressure or the force with which the blood flows inside these blood vessels might break the blood vessels and stop the blood flow to the particular organ.
And if the blood flow to an organ stops it’s a big problem.
Uncontrolled hypertension leads to cardiac failure, renal failure, stroke , retinal problems etc. Worst case scenario – paralysis, coma and death.
Hypertension is also known as a “ silent killer”. Therefore we have to lookout for symptoms of hypertension. Its always better to identify it early and rectify it.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension
Symptoms for high blood pressure include morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms/ palpitations, vision changes, buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension include symptoms like nausea , vomiting, confusion, anxiety, excessive sweating, chest pain and muscle tremors.
** It should also be noted that these symptoms are vague and can occur due to multiple other reasons too. But hypertension being the most common cause, it is always advised to check for your blood pressure and other details with your Doctor.
Most people with hypertension don’t have any obvious symptoms. Therefore its important to measure blood pressure regularly, especially with increase in age.
How to check blood pressure ?
The instrument used to check Blood pressure is called a Sphygmomanometer. (Of course a Stethoscope is also needed)
“The process of checking blood pressure is an art” and not everyone are good artists. That’s why the only way to confirm the diagnosis of hypertension is by getting your blood pressure checked by an experienced health care professional.
Nowadays there are many advanced automated machines that measure blood pressure in an easy way, available to the general public. People usually prefer to keep it at home and check it at regular basis.
Its also important to know that the value the machine reads need not be exactly accurate always.Therefore its always recommended to visit a hospital to get an exact value of your BP as it’ll be more accurate.
PREVENTION IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN CURE.
When diagnosed with hypertension, based on different factors you doctor will prescribe you medications. The main aim in the treatment for hypertension is to bring down your blood pressure to normal range.
Therefore knowing how to control hypertension and practicing it religiously, is important.
[ I’m pretty sure you already know most of this will give you a better quality of life in general, I’m not going to say anything different ]
- Maintaining normal body weight/ BMI (body mass index)
- Dietary salt reduction
- Increase in physical activity
- Increase in dietary fiber
- Moderation of alcohol consumption
- Avoid smoking
- Regular checking of BP
- Practice Meditation to reduce tension and stress
- Educating others the dangers of hypertension
- Having medication regularly and stopping only if the doctor suggests to
Knowing about how your body works and understanding it, is important. The abnormal changes in the body like hypertension helps you realize that how a normal thing like blood pressure can lead to a huge effect like stroke or death, if not under control.
The sad reality is that there is an increase in the number of teenagers getting diagnosed with hypertension. The increase in psychological stress might contribute to this.
It is therefore in our hands to help educate this information to maximum number of people so that they’ll realize the importance of hypertension and how it can be easily prevented.
Don’t forget to check your Blood pressure or BP!