Hypertension is a chronic (long term) medical condition which is characterized by a persistent increase in the blood pressure in our arteries. This is why it is also called High Blood Pressure (HBP). We may have come across it in many literatures being referred to as a silent killer! Yes. It sure is one. Nobody wants to reach the end of the time of life, at least not at an age when much work is still left undone, words left unsaid, and special people left unloved. This is where it gets a little dicey. More than 50% of those with hypertension do not even know that they have it! More like an insecure king wining and dining with a traitor and a lot of times many more traitors as we will come to realize in prospect.

Here are some epidemiological facts to serve as an eye opener for us to understand what is really at stake here

Hypertension is generally of two types. A primary type and of course a secondary type. The primary type is caused by non-specific factors involving one's lifestyle or genetic predisposition. These factors include but are not limited to smoking, obesity, high salt intake, sedentary lifestyle, depression and it accounts for over 95% of the total hypertensive individuals. The remaining 5% or thereabout have the secondary type of hypertension which is due to or secondary to known pre-existing causes such as chronic kidney disease, hormonal abnormalities, use of birth control pills, pregnancy, coarctation of the largest artery in the body, the aorta and stenosis of one or both renal arteries.

Fortunately, hypertension is one of those medical conditions which are readily preventable and then proper treatments, preventive techniques and management strategies are well utilized. This means there is actually one way to know your Hypertensive status. This is in essence but in fact that it is by getting your blood pressure checked repeatedly. Hypertension if left unchecked, could cause any of the following:
Coronary artery disorder; a disease of the blood vessels that supplies the heart itself with nutrients and blood
2. Heart failure
3. Stroke
4. Blindness
5. Chronic Kidney Disease
6. Peripheral Vascular Disease
7. Multiorgan Failure
8. Death

Why must I examine my lifestyle?

I would start with those who love salt so much that we even salt our soft drinks, drinking water and bathing water. I would have to bring our minds back to the Ebola virus outbreak in Nigeria some years ago where different sacrilegious ideas came up from nowhere advising people to chew kolanut with salt water and to have their bath with salt water. I hope we know that many people supposedly died of this act than from the disease outbreak itself.

The normal and most striking attribute of salt in the body system is to pull along with it as much water as it can. Here, engorging the blood vessels and making them overloaded with fluid. The heart in response to this starts to overwork itself so as to compensate for the unnecessary increase in volume it has to pump per cycle. Before you know what is happening, the heart begins to fail until it ever gives way to stress.

Next is smoking. This one is very bad and its medical signal goes beyond hypertension. It is the single most important factor for developing coronary artery disease. Smoking grossly increases the chance of getting down with hypertension in the long run. Its close relative, Alcohol is also a major stakeholder in the world of lifestyle diseases. Hypertension gotten through one of these is not good let alone combining both alcohol and smoking. I can imagine the great wall of Jericho falling flat once more.

Worthy of mention also is a very common one of which basically everyone is a culprit. This is exercise. The standard approach about this is that one should have at least 30 minutes of exercise each day for at least 3 days in a week. This is the minimum you are allowed to go. Exercise simply helps your heart to improve in its function and enable it to cope with increased workload barring any case, you might have gotten engaged with much salt or other substance that overloads your blood volume. Also, your heartbeat is increased and blood flows faster. These and many more are the wonderful effects of exercise on your body.

There is a serious relationship between hypertension and obesity. Obese individuals typically have impaired carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolisms. As such, they usually have a strong tendency to have Diabetes Mellitus and under-utilized high level of glucose in the blood is just as harmful as salt in the blood. Bad lipids are often times deposited on the walls of their arteries thusby reducing their diameters and restricting the flow of blood in it. This is one of the causes of hypertension in the obese; increased peripheral resistance of the blood vessels.

Lastly, on this episode of your Health column, it would suffice to say that what we see is what you eat. Much need not be said about this. Eat well, eat smart and eat right!