High blood pressure or hypertension is a common condition worldwide as in Barbados. In fact, according to a recent local study supported by WHO Pan-American Health Organisation and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than one-third of Barbadians aged 25-70 years have hypertension. This is very concerning because hypertension is a major contributor to the development of cardiovascular noncommunicable disease.
Hypertension is often dubbed ‘the silent killer’, as despite being the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, many persons affected by this remain asymptomatic, undiagnosed and untreated. Hypertension may be managed by a combination of lifestyle changes (like weight loss and smoking cessation) and oral medication.
Sometimes, tablets and exercise just would not be enough. There are certain conditions under which you should seek medical attention immediately in the presence of an elevated blood pressure to avoid serious, potentially fatal consequences.
Though hypertension may be associated with headaches it should be clear that hypertension is generally not the actually cause of most headaches. Blood pressures of 200/110mmHg or higher however, may precipitate headaches. Severe headaches could be due to intracranial haemorrhage due to expanding or ruptured brain aneurysms which can be fatal.
2. Chest pain or difficulty breathing
In the presence of severely elevated blood pressure (greater than 180/110mmHg), chest pain or difficulty breathing may be the only features of a catastrophic emergency. They may indicate a heart attack, aortic aneurysm or acute heat failure, all of which require emergency treatment and hospitalisation.
3. Altered consciousness or confusion
Obvious signs of neurological disease like seizures (fits) or loss of consciousness usually prompt persons to seek medical attention, Less obvious signs of neurological disease often don’t evoke an immediate response and this can be a serious mistake. A reduction in the normal level of response, confusion or blurred vision with severely elevated blood pressures can be due to a hypertensive emergency impairing proper brain function. Persons with severely elevated blood pressures and any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
4. Age <30 years
Over 90% of persons with hypertension have primary hypertension where there is no known cause; this is not commonly seen in young people. Persons under 30 years are likely to have secondary hypertension which is hypertension that is often reversible and a feature of some other (usually treatable) disease. Without proper treatment these diseases can make you very ill, so you should see your doctor to be properly evaluated. Some examples of secondary causes of hypertension include thyroid disease, kidney failure, medication (both prescription and over-the-counter), illicit drugs like cocaine, and alcohol.
Hypertension is the most common medical problem seen in pregnancy. Women with new onset hypertension after the 20th week of pregnancy, are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is associated with swollen feet, (and sometimes hands and face), protein in the urine, headache, abdominal pain and nausea. This is a very serious condition which may be life-threatening for both the mother and her unborn baby.
Hypertension is a chronic medical condition which with careful monitoring and adherence to a good treatment plan can be adequately managed with few, if any complications. If anytime you are concerned, you should reach out to your doctor for advise and guidance, which can prevent undue panic or unnecessary emergency trips to the hospital. If you don’t have a doctor, you can call us at Urgent Care Mobile at 538-3838, we’d be happy to advise you.
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