Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects millions of people worldwide, yet its symptoms can be so subtle that the condition may remain undiagnosed for years until serious health problems arise. But how do you know if you have high blood pressure and what can you do about it?
Common symptoms of high blood pressure
If your blood pressure is very high, you may notice all or some of the following symptoms:
- problems with your vision
- feelings of fatigue
- feelings of confusion or disorientation
- persistent, severe headaches
- chest pain and difficulty breathing
- palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
- blood in your urine
- unexplained swelling and accumulation of fluid
All the above symptoms can be indicative of a serious problem and that you should seek the advice of a doctor at your family clinic immediately.
If very high blood pressure is left undiagnosed and untreated, the condition can worsen into malignant or accelerated hypertension. This deterioration is extremely serious and can lead to organ damage, leaving you vulnerable to life-threatening conditions, including stroke, heart attack, and pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs).
Diagnosis of hypertension
Your doctor will ask you for details of your symptoms and will also carry out tests, including blood pressure monitoring, eye tests (to look for signs of bleeding or brain swelling), and urine and blood tests.
You should also be prepared to tell your doctor if you take herbal supplements or if you use recreational drugs. This information is important as the effects of such substances can affect your blood pressure.
In order to treat your hypertension your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and could also prescribe drug therapy to control the condition. You will need to attend the family clinic regularly so that the doctor can monitor your blood pressure.
Risk factors associated with hypertension
There are a number of factors that can determine whether a person develops high blood pressure. These factors include:
- lack of exercise
- a high-sodium diet
- excess alcohol consumption
- family history of high blood pressure
- being of African or south Asian descent
You can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure by moderating your alcohol consumption, losing weight, and changing your diet to include more fresh fruit and vegetables. If you think that you may have high blood pressure or if you belong to one of the high risk groups mentioned above, be sure to visit your family clinic and ask your doctor for advice.