High blood pressure is symptomless and here’s what exactly happens in the body when BP rises: WHO expert explains – Times of India

High blood pressure is symptomless and here’s what exactly happens in the body when BP rises: WHO expert explains – Times of India

“Hypertension affects one in three adults globally, and yet only one in five people are actually controlled for their blood pressure. We’ve actually estimated at the WHO that we can save 76 million lives by 2050 if we can increase control rates globally. That’s about the size of South Africa,” says Taskeen Khan, WHO, Medical Officer, Cardiovascular diseases.
In the recent episode of Science in 5 by WHO, Dr Khan talked about hypertension, its symptoms and how it affects the body.

Hypertension is a silent killer

“The reason why hypertension is called a ‘silent killer’ is because it’s completely symptomless,” she said and added it is perfectly okay to suddenly find out that you have high blood pressure. And high blood pressure leads to deadly conditions like heart attack, stroke, kidney disease but is completely symptomless.

What exactly happens in our body when we have high blood pressure

Dr Khan explains: There are vessels in your body called arteries and these arteries carry oxygenated blood to your organs. When hypertension occurs, it thickens these arteries or makes them stiff or has little clots in them. And those clots actually travel to the heart or the brain and cause heart attacks and strokes.

Tips to manage blood pressure: Avoid the Four S’s

Dr Khan suggests seeking medical care, going regularly to the doctor if you are diagnosed with hypertension and taking your medication as prescribed.
She recommends avoiding the four S’s:
Smoking: Smoking and high blood pressure (hypertension) are significant risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Smoking tobacco leads to the release of chemicals into the bloodstream, causing blood vessels to constrict and raising blood pressure. Over time, smoking damages the lining of blood vessels, accelerating the buildup of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) that can block arteries and increase hypertension. Smoking reduces oxygen levels in the blood, forcing the heart to work harder to supply oxygen to tissues, further raising blood pressure. Managing high blood pressure involves quitting smoking, along with lifestyle changes and medications prescribed by healthcare providers to reduce cardiovascular risks.
Salt: Excessive salt intake is linked to high blood pressure (hypertension) as it causes the body to retain water, increasing the volume of blood circulating through the blood vessels. This extra fluid puts added pressure on the walls of the arteries, leading to elevated blood pressure over time. High blood pressure strains the heart and can damage blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage. Reducing salt intake by avoiding processed foods, limiting added salt in cooking, and choosing low-sodium alternatives can help manage blood pressure levels effectively, alongside other healthy lifestyle choices and medical treatments as needed.

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Sleep: A lack of sufficient sleep or poor sleep quality can contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension) by disrupting the body’s natural rhythms and affecting hormone levels. Sleep helps regulate stress hormones like cortisol, which play a role in blood pressure regulation. Chronic sleep deprivation or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can lead to increased sympathetic nervous system activity, causing blood pressure to rise. Inadequate sleep may impair blood vessel function and increase inflammation, further elevating blood pressure over time. Prioritizing adequate, quality sleep through consistent sleep schedules, creating a conducive sleep environment, and addressing sleep disorders can help manage blood pressure and promote overall cardiovascular health.
Stress: Stress can significantly impact blood pressure (BP) levels by triggering the body’s “fight or flight” response. When stressed, the body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which temporarily increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels, leading to elevated BP. Chronic stress can contribute to long-term hypertension by maintaining high levels of these hormones and increasing inflammation, which can damage blood vessel walls. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and seeking support from loved ones or professionals can help reduce its impact on BP and overall cardiovascular health. Effective stress management is crucial for preventing and managing hypertension.

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