21 May 2018

Tanzania: High Blood Pressure - Not Just a Matter of the Heart

Photo: Elina Mark/Wikimedia Commons
(file photo).

Friday May 18 was World Hypertension Day but, interestingly, what was being discussed in the public domain was about the heart.

Well, the heart pumps blood, but when it does its job at high pressure, a condition known as High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) may occur.

There is something to note, however. That in cases of high blood pressure, the problem may not necessarily be about the heart.

Just because you have high blood pressure, certain conditions that are life-threatening; such as heart attacks, stroke and kidney disease may ensue.

Symptoms are rarely noticeable, how can you tell you've got it? So, knowing your blood pressure readings, may help you to detect a wide range of health problems whose early manifestation may have come in the form of high blood pressure.

The long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough to eventually cause health problems, including heart disease.

One may have high blood pressure readings because he/she smokes a lot of cigarettes, has mental stress, his/her parents or other close blood relatives have high blood pressure and that means they are at an increased chance that you'll get it, too, the older you get the greater the risk and so on. The older you are, the more likely you are to get high blood pressure.

Being diabetic, overweight, if you don't exercise and so on, you increase your risk. But, you have to go the extra mile to check for other problems in case your blood pressure is found to be high.

Three years ago, in our village, a 45-year-old woman complained about frequent headaches and light-headedness for a long time. In our settings, most people tend to believe that headache is mostly caused by malaria and unfortunately, she used to visit a dispensary in our neighbourhood where they often prescribed for her anti-pains and antimalarial drugs. After about a year and a half, she decided to go to a district hospital where doctors took her blood pressure readings and realised she had "High Blood Pressure."

Unfortunately, she was given drugs to control her blood pressure problem and no further medical investigation was done about it. Guess what. She had already developed kidney failure. This went unnoticed until she was later rushed to a referral hospital in critical condition.

Since then, she has undergone a series of treatment procedures, including kidney transplant surgery.

So, keep an eye on your heart. A small number of high blood pressure cases are caused by another medical condition that was present first. Examples include pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), certain heart defects, and kidney disorders, as I said before. Most often, if the condition causing the high blood pressure can be resolved, the individual's blood pressure will normalise as well.

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