Preventing Hypertension and its risks

 

Healthy arteries are flexible, strong and elastic. When we’re at our healthiest and feeling our best, their inner lining is smooth so that blood flows freely, supplying our vital organs and tissues with nutrients and oxygen. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, gradually causes artery walls to become less elastic. As a result, it can damage or narrow arteries, limiting blood flow throughout your body.

With today’s current health crisis, never has our health and our ability to reduce the risk of heart disease been more important. With limited access to regular checks at your doctor’s surgery, your local Alphega Pharmacist can check your blood pressure and give you the reassurance you need.

High blood pressure can cause many problems for your heart, including coronary artery disease, enlarged left heart, or heart failure. Hypertension can also cause several problems for your brain, which depends on a nourishing blood supply to work properly, including mild cognitive impairment, dementia and stroke.

Hypertension is a leading cause of stroke, with some evidence showing it’s responsible for 60% of all strokes worldwide. It’s also a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease, vascular dementia and other cardiovascular diseases. Living with the effects of these conditions can be life-changing, but with support from an Alphega pharmacist, you can be better equipped to understand and prevent the risks.

What are the risks of hypertension?

Having other health conditions along with hypertension, particularly high cholesterol and diabetes, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Hypertension is also a risk factor for:

  • Coronary heart disease and heart attacks

  • Left ventricular hypertrophy

  • Heart failure

  • Peripheral arterial disease

  • Chronic kidney disease and kidney failure

  • Stroke, both ischemic and haemorrhagic

Blood pressure

What can I do to reduce the risks?

There are a number of risk factors for hypertension which often overlap with the risk factors for other conditions related to heart disease. These include both lifestyle factors that can be modified, and risk factors that you cannot control such as your age and inherited conditions.

Modifiable risk factors

  • Poor diet - lack of fruit and vegetables, and too much fat and sugar, can all lead to weight gain and in turn raise blood pressure, as well as other effects on the cardiovascular system
  • High salt intake – this is a major cause of hypertension. Salt intakes are generally far higher than the 5g daily maximum recommended by the WHO, largely due to the amount of salt in ready-made or processed food
  • Alcohol - especially heavy drinking
  • Lack of physically activity – it’s very common for people to do less than the recommended amounts of activity, raising the risk of hypertension and CVD
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking – exacerbates the damage to the arteries caused by hypertension, speeding up the process of atherosclerosis

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Age – blood pressure becomes much more common with age
  • Gender – men typically experience hypertension earlier than women
  • Family history
  • Genetics - genes are involved in blood pressure control
  • Socio economic status - Hypertension is most common in low income households and deprived areas
  • Medicines – some medicines can increase average blood pressure, including the combined contraceptive pill and certain antidepressants