Hypertension, aka high blood pressure, is known as the ‘silent killer’ yet too many people remain clueless about the condition. Read on for 10 facts about hypertension.
It’s a fact of life that for better chances of enjoying good health as we get older, we need to make sensible choices about the food we eat and move more. Having an unhealthy diet and not exercising enough could contribute to increasing your chances of having hypertension, or high blood pressure.
According to the NHS website, hypertension is when the pressure in our blood vessels is unusually high, a very serious condition if left untreated. There are no obvious symptoms of high blood pressure, and the only way to find out if you have it is if you get your blood pressure checked using a blood pressure monitor.
Having uncontrolled high blood pressure can you put you at a higher risk for strokes, heart disease, heart attack, and kidney failure. As a condition that commonly affects Black people, we’ve spoken to experts to bring you 10 facts about hypertension that every Black person needs to know.
There are two types of high blood pressure
As described by Mayo Clinic, there are two types of high blood pressure to be aware of:
For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure is called primary (essential) hypertension and develops gradually over the years.
Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying health condition. This type of high blood pressure is called secondary hypertension and appears much more suddenly than primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:
- Sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid problems
- Medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, and over-the-counter pain killers.
Hypertension is particularly common among Black people
Hypertension is particularly widespread among Black people, often developing at an earlier age than it does in white people. Serious complications arising from high blood pressure such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure, are also more common in people of African heritage. Abbas Kanani is a pharmacist at Chemist Click, which won the title of Most Trusted Online Pharmacy 2020. Kanani told Melan Magazine: “People from African, Caribbean, or South Asian backgrounds have a higher risk of developing hypertension. As high blood pressure often has no symptoms, I would encourage people from these ethnicities to check their blood pressure regularly, especially if you are over the age of 40, overweight, or generally have an ‘unhealthy lifestyle’. Uncontrolled hypertension is a contributor to strokes and heart attacks. Blood pressure monitors can be purchased online for £10-£15.”
Foods that include high sodium can cause hypertension
Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure. It is recommended to eat no more than 5g a day of salt. People of African heritage are known to use a lot of seasoning in their cooking. A quick glance at the ingredients of some of the most used seasonings in our kitchen cabinets will show that sodium is the primary ingredient in the seasoning. And when multiple seasonings are mixed together for one meal, it increases the amount of sodium intake which may lead to hypertension. Instead, it is advised to purchase low sodium seasoning, rubs and marinades, and also use herbs to enhance flavour of food as opposed to seasoning cubes. Also limiting the intake of food with high saturated fats and trans fats will reduce the risk of hypertension. Kanani said: “To a larger extent, lifestyle factors, predominantly salt intake is a major contributing factor. Genetics also plays a part with certain ethnicities being more sensitive to sodium (contained in salt).”
Hypertension is known as ‘the silent killer’
If you have hypertension, you may not even know that you have it, that’s why it is often called the ‘silent killer’. According to the British Heart Foundation, there are rarely any signs or symptoms, so millions of people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it until it may be too late.
Young people can have high blood pressure too
High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke, a condition that is on the rise among younger people. According to the CDC, the increased risk for stroke in 20 – 44-year-olds is a direct result of the rising rates of obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes, conditions that are preventable and treatable. You can get your blood pressure checked by your GP or check it at home if you have an ambulatory blood pressure monitor.
Hypertension can be pregnancy related in women
Women with hypertension who become pregnant are more likely to have complications during pregnancy. According to the CDC, high blood pressure during pregnancy can harm a mother’s kidneys, leading to premature delivery and low birth weight babies. Some types of birth control can also raise a woman’s risk for hypertension. Women with hypertension who are trying to have children should speak to their GPs on ways to lower their blood pressure before becoming pregnant.
Alcohol increases your risk
Heavy drinking over a long period of time can damage your heart. Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men may affect your blood pressure. If you drink alcohol, try to do so in moderation.
Hypertension – a lifelong commitment
Once it’s confirmed that you have hypertension you will need to make various lifestyle adjustments to remain healthy. Adopting a healthy diet, exercising, controlling your stress, avoiding smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake. Also, once you start taking medication for hypertension, you will likely need it for the rest of your life. You may also need to visit your GP regularly, or you may be asked to check your blood pressure at home and keep track of the numbers for your doctor.
Millions of people have it
According to the British Heart Foundation, more than 14 million adults in the UK have high blood pressure, and as many as five million of these are thought to be undiagnosed because symptoms for hypertension are hard to determine.
Stress causes hypertension
It’s no exaggeration to say that the last couple of years has been a particularly stressful time and so it’s important to be aware that high levels of stress can result in a temporary increase in blood pressure which is the cause of hypertension. Stress-related habits such as eating more, using tobacco, or drinking alcohol can also lead to an increase in blood pressure.
As with most health issues, prevention is better than a cure so be armed with these important facts about hypertension and make the right choices.
This article was written by Yaa Tweneboah
Please note that we are not medical professionals and that this is an information article. If you are worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please make an appointment with your doctor.