In the UK at least a quarter of all adults suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure). This figure rises to more than 50% in people over the age of 60. Hypertension, when left untreated, can put you at a higher risk of strokes and heart attacks. Read our article below for more information on the symptoms, causes, and treatment for hypertension.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
Hypertension rarely has any symptoms, so it is important to check your blood pressure every 5 years at least.
However, sometimes hypertension can cause:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Blurred vision
- Shortness of breath
The only way to confirm you have hypertension is by testing it with a blood pressure monitor.
What causes high blood pressure?
There are two types of hypertension: primary and secondary.
The most common type of hypertension, primary hypertension, is when you have high blood pressure but cannot diagnose any underlying cause. It is thought to be linked to genetics, poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity.
Secondary hypertension can be caused by conditions that affect your kidneys, arteries, heart, or endocrine system. Secondary hypertension can also occur during pregnancy.
High blood pressure can also be caused by aging and excessive smoking and drinking.
How is high blood pressure treated?
Everyone who is diagnosed with hypertension will be advised to make healthy lifestyle changes.
You should try to:
- cut your salt intake to less than a teaspoonful a day
- eat a low-fat, balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- be active
- moderate your alcohol intake
- maintain a healthy weight
- moderate your caffeine intake
- stop smoking
Depending on your blood pressure reading and your risk of developing problems like heart attacks or strokes, you may be recommended medication. There are several types of medication that can be used to control hypertension, and some people may need to take a combination of these.
If youíre aged under 55, youíll usually be offered an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin-2 receptor blocker (ARB). If youíre over 55, or any age and of African or Caribbean descent, you'll usually be offered a calcium channel blocker.
You may need to take this medication for the rest of your life. However, your doctor might be able to reduce or stop your treatment if your blood pressure stays under control for several years.
Itís really important that you take any medication as directed, even if it doesnít feel like itís doing anything. If you are experiencing side effects, donít stop taking your medication and raise it with your doctor as soon as possible.
Clinical trials support the use of garlic supplements to lower blood pressure. In an Australian study, patients who were given doses ranging from 600mg to 900mg of aged garlic extract daily had much lower blood pressure readings after a period of 12 to 23 weeks.