Hypertension: Understanding The Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Approach

Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, tends to develop over a period of several years. The condition occurs when the walls of your arteries are narrow, which causes resistance to build as blood flows through your arteries. High blood pressure can increase your risk of developing certain health problems, such as heart disease, aneurysm and stroke. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms and treatment approach for hypertension:

Causes And Symptoms

It's not always possible to identify the cause of hypertension, but there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing the condition. Consuming too much salt can increase the pressure on your arteries by increasing fluid retention in your cells. Potassium can help balance the sodium content of your blood, so not consuming enough foods rich in potassium can contribute to high blood pressure.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle is another risk factor to be aware of. Those who are not physically active generally have higher heart rates than those who exercise regularly. This causes your heart to pump out blood to your arteries with increased force, which puts pressure on the walls of the arteries and can contribute to arterial narrowing. Similarly, being overweight increases the volume of blood in your arteries, which puts them under pressure, as your heart has to work harder to supply enough oxygen to your tissues via your red blood cells. Certain medical conditions also increase your risk of developing hypertension, such as thyroid or kidney problems, sleep apnoea and adrenal tumours.

Initially, you may not experience any symptoms of hypertension. However, if the condition is left untreated, you may experience breathlessness, persistent headaches and nosebleeds. These symptoms should always be investigated by your GP.

Treatment Approach

It's quick and simple to measure your blood pressure in your doctor's office, but as blood pressure can vary throughout the day, your doctor will likely take a few blood pressure readings over the course of a few days to be sure your blood pressure is consistently raised. Alternatively, they may ask you to wear a blood pressure cuff and portable monitor for an entire day at home. Once diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor will refer you to a cardiologist for treatment.

There are several types of drugs that can be used to control your blood pressure, and you may have to try a few before finding the right one for you. Beta blockers reduce pressure on your arteries by opening up your blood vessels, diuretics reduce blood volume by flushing out sodium and excess water and calcium channel blockers can slow your heart rate and reverse muscle tension in your blood vessels. Your cardiologist will also discuss lifestyle changes that could bring your blood pressure under control, and they can refer you to other specialists for support in making the necessary changes.

Hypertension is a serious condition that can cause complete heart failure if it's not brought under control. Bulk billing can be applied to cardiology appointments and associated specialist clinics, such as dietetics, so if you're concerned you may have hypertension, schedule an appointment with your GP right away. If they need to refer you on to a specialist, let them know that you prefer bulk billing doctors.