Hypertension or high blood pressure (high BP) is a medical condition where the pressure in the blood vessels is persistently elevated. The heart pumps blood into the arteries, which circulate blood to all parts of the body. In cases of high blood pressure, the heart has to work harder to push the blood column ahead.
Hypertension is a serious medical condition that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythm, vision loss, chronic kidney disease and dementia. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide. Maintaining blood pressure within normal limits is vital for preserving health and reducing the risk of these dangerous conditions. The risk of hypertension increases after the age of 60 years.
Hypertension in the elderly (adults older than 60 years of age)
The new hypertension guidelines for the elderly are mainly related to the treatment protocols. They include
- Adults older than 60 years of age with persistent systolic blood pressure higher than 150 mmHg should be treated to achieve a target systolic blood pressure lesser than 150 mmHg.
- Adults 60 years of age or older with a history of stroke may be treated to achieve a lower target blood pressure lesser than 140 mmHg to reduce the risk of recurrent stroke.
- Adults who are older than 60 years of age and have a high cardiovascular risk may be treated to achieve a lower target blood pressure lesser than 140 mmHg.
What are the signs and symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension is generally considered a silent killer. Most people with hypertension do not have any symptoms.
It may take many years for the condition to become severe and for symptoms to appear. Many times, these symptoms may be attributed to other issues. The best way to know the blood pressure levels is through regular checkups.
Symptoms of severe hypertension include:
What are the complications of hypertension?
Excessive pressure on artery walls caused by hypertension can damage the blood vessels and organs. Higher uncontrolled blood pressure causes greater damage.
Complications caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure include
- Heart attack or stroke: High blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
- Heart failure: The heart must work harder to pump blood against the high pressure in the blood vessels. This causes the walls of the heart's pumping chamber to thicken (left ventricular hypertrophy), which can eventually lead to heart failure.
- Aneurysm: Abnormal bulge in the blood vessel can become life-threatening if it bursts.
- Kidney failure: Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in kidneys prevent them from functioning normally.
- Vision loss: Hypertensive retinopathies in the eye can lead to blindness.
- Trouble with memory or understanding: Uncontrolled hypertension damage the small blood vessels supplying the blood vessels in the brain.
- Dementia: Narrowed or blocked arteries limit blood flow to the brain, leading to dementia.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Medscape. New Hypertension Guidelines: JNC 7. Journal Watch. 2003;2(5). https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/457298