According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 in 5 adults worldwide have hypertension – a condition that causes around half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease. Complications from hypertension account for 9.4 million deaths worldwide every year.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure or raised blood pressure, is called the “Silent Killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people are unaware that they have it. Hypertension occurs when the pressure of the blood pumped in the arteries remains elevated, forcing the heart to work harder. Over time, this constant pressure causes accumulating damage that often leads to serious health problems.
Anyone can develop hypertension but there are certain risk factors that can increase this risk.
- Age: Blood pressure rises with age.
- Gender: Before 55, high blood pressure is more common in men than women. After 55, women are more likely than men to develop high blood pressure.
- Family History: A family history of high blood pressure raises the risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Lifestyle: Eating too much sodium or too little potassium, lack of physical exercise, consumption of too much alcohol, and smoking can all increase risk for high blood pressure.
- Race/Ethnicity: High blood pressure is more common in African Americans.
- Weight: Overweight or obese individuals are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
Complications of Hypertension
Hypertension places stress on several organs and uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to the following health conditions:
- Eye Damage
- Kidney Failure
- Heart Attack
- Sexual Dysfunction
Controlling blood pressure helps to prevent these complications.
Unfortunately, only half of those people diagnosed with hypertension have their blood pressure under control.
Controlling High Blood Pressure
It is important that patients with hypertension work with their doctors to set blood pressure goals. Treatment plans include lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise and quitting smoking, as well as drug treatment. Since many sufferers of hypertension do not feel ill or have symptoms, it is also vital to measure and keep track of your blood pressure, including taking measurements at home.
Ian MacDonald, M.D., FRCPC (Nephrology)
Chief Medical Officer
Unboxed Health Inc.
Dr. Ian MacDonald is a practising Nephrologist in Northern Ontario, with an interest in Hypertension.