Primary/Essential Hypertension: Symptoms, Treatment

You might have heard of essential hypertension, or at least high blood pressure or High BP, if not then you are reading about it now. It is being announced because it is a very common condition which is relatively easy to control but can have very serious and life-threatening complications if left untreated. You may have heard of or even witnessed scenarios of sudden death; where a man goes to bed at night and would need to have his doors broken down in other for his corpse to be retrieved, or someone just addressing an audience and slumps to face his creator.

These scenarios are easily cried off as “village people” or “spiritual attacks” with the accompanying quarrels and broken homes, but after reading this you will also know that uncontrolled hypertension could be the real culprit behind these scenarios as hypertension could also be referred to as the “silent killer”.

What is High Blood Pressure?

The heart pumps blood which passes through the blood vessels to reach different parts of our body. For the blood to reach every part of the body, the heart would need to pump the blood with enough force into the blood vessels. This force would exert pressure on the walls of the blood vessels which is known as blood pressure.

Hypertension occurs when the blood pressure is higher than normal that it can cause damage to the walls of the blood vessels. The pressure can get so high that it can burst even burst the blood vessels just like a small pipe with too much water flowing through it. Even if it does not get that high, it could still cause damages to the walls of the blood vessels around the body and cause the scary complications of hypertension. to Learn more about Hypertension, click here

What causes Essential hypertension?

In most people with hypertension, we cannot pin-point any specific underlying cause of their hypertension even after doing many tests. These people are said to have primary or essential hypertension.

Although the specific causes of essential hypertension are not clear, there are however some factors that are common among people that have essential hypertension. These factors are called risk factors of essential hypertension, and I will group them into; those we cannot control (non modifiable risk factors) and those we can control (modifiable risk factors).

Essential Hypertension
Image Credits: Adam

The non modifiable risk factors include:

  • Age: essential hypertension is more likely to develop as we advance in age. It is more common in people above 40 years of age
  • Gender: essential hypertension is more common in men than in women.
  • Race: essential hypertension is more common in Africans than in white people.
  • Family history: essential hypertension tends to run in families. So check if any of your parents or grandparents had it. Try finding out their cause of death if they are dead. See more on Hereditary here.

The modifiable risk factors include:

  • High salt or Seasoning (Maggi) intake: These food ingredients contains an element called Sodium. Sodium causes the body to retain water which would increase your blood volume and blood pressure. If you consistently need to add additional salt to your food or have specially prepared food from the rest of the family, you may need to stop trusting your taste buds.
  • Too much alcohol
  • Smoking: Using tobacco; chewing, smoking or snuffing, neither is good as tobacco can cause essential hypertension or help it damage your blood vessels leading to an earlier onset of the complications.
  • Drugs: Using recreational drugs like cocaine, amphetamines Indian hemp etc.
  • Some medications such as steroids: minimize patronizing chemist stores for mixing drugs.
  • Obesity: if your body is bigger, your heart would need to work harder to pump blood to every part of your body. Watch your weight.
  • Sedentary life style: It can cause obesity. Add more physical activity to your daily routine if you are in this group.

Secondary hypertension:

In very few people with hypertension, we can easily find out what is causing it, these people are said to have secondary hypertension.  It could be due to kidney disease, thyroid and other endocrine diseases (hormonal imbalance), being born with some problems in their blood vessels, and as the side effects of some medications such as oral contraceptive drugs, steroids etc. People with secondary hypertension are so few and usually have other disturbing symptoms which would force them to the hospital, thus they rarely develop the complications of hypertension like those with the silent essential hypertension.

Symptoms of essential hypertension

Essential hypertension is largely asymptomatic. This means that someone with hypertension can be living his life without even knowing that he has hypertension until he develops the irreversible complications and would then start fighting for his life – if he doesn’t die suddenly.

Some people would experience some mild symptoms such as

However, these symptoms also occur when the damages have started, and since the symptoms does not only occur in hypertension, they can easily be attributed to malaria and underestimated with repeated malaria treatments. This is why high blood pressure is called “The Silent Killer”.

How to catch essential hypertension early:

Don’t be scared, essential hypertension is very easy to diagnose. It only takes a few minutes to measure your blood pressure. Screening is the most effective way to catch essential hypertension early, but you need to make yourself available. Hospitals and other health facilities make it a policy to measure the blood pressures of everybody that comes to them.

So if you find yourself in a hospital and your blood pressure is not measured ask for it to be measured. You can also walk into any health centre near you and ask for it to be measured. Some pharmacies and other health outlets also offer blood pressure monitoring services. You can also walk in and request for their services, if you are friendly you can get it checked for free, but most times it would cost some change.

How is blood pressure measured?

To know how the blood pressure is measured, and when it is high or low, Click here.

How is hypertension treated?

Bad news is, currently there is no permanent treatment or cure for hypertension.

However, good news is, even if you have essential hypertension you can live a long and healthy life provided that the high blood pressure is managed and controlled properly so that the complications does not set in. Once it has been confirmed that you have essential hypertension, you will need to work together with your doctor in order to keep it under control.

Generally, you will need to;

  • eat more healthy foods such as fish, lean meat, fruits and vegetables,
  • stop bad habits that encourage hypertension like reducing salt intake,
  • stopping alcohol drinking,
  • quitting smoking and stopping tobacco usage.
  • There may be a need to reduce your weight; your doctor would help you.

If your blood pressure is not so high, these lifestyle changes may be all that is needed to control the blood pressure for a long time without the need for medications, but you would need to keep up your regular check up visits in case any changes are needed. Your doctor may need to add some medications if these lifestyle modifications alone cannot tackle the hypertension.

There are many medications that are used in the management of essential hypertension, they work in many ways to reduce the blood pressure but generally they reduce the blood pressure by either reducing the volume of blood in your body or by making the blood vessels wider so that the blood would flow better without too much force on the blood vessel walls.

Commonly prescribed medications include: hydrochlorothiazides, atenolol, metoprolol, amlodipiine, nifedipine, captopril, lisinopril, losartan, candesartan, etc.

You only need to adhere strictly to the medications and how your doctor tells you to take them and keep your appointments for regular check-ups. You may also consider buying your personal electronic blood pressure monitor to better track the changes in your blood pressure and maintain it close to normal.

You may need to be taking the drugs daily for the rest of your life, this may be very challenging but just see it as food supplements for a healthy life. If you are diagnosed with essential hypertension you should try and read further about the condition and know as much as is needed to take care of yourself, as knowledge is power.

Don’t be reluctant to ask your doctor any question to clarify your concerns, and most importantly, close your ears to any herbalist, native doctor or prophet who promises you a permanent cure with prayers or one or two short term drugs from the evil forest or from overseas.

You may be concerned about the cost of managing essential hypertension but most of the drugs are relatively affordable and generally far cheaper than treating the complications or hosting burial ceremonies.

There are many Complications that you can have from not properly managing your high blood pressure. Click here to read these complications of high blood pressure

Hypertension is not a death sentence, if well managed you can live a healthy life till your time is naturally exhausted.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have about this condition using the comment below.

Authors

  • Ahamefule henry attended the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching hospital, UNTH in Ituku Ozalla, Enugu State. Nigeria

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