What is hypertension and how do I know I have it?

You wouldn’t be alone in having heard a medical term thrown around and casually dropped into conversation without ever learning what it means. Often we’re too proud to admit that we don’t know what something means in front of those who clearly do, but don’t worry – we’ve got your back. If you’re reading this, in around two minutes’ time you’ll know exactly what hypertension is and more importantly, how to recognise the symptoms.

Hypertension in simple terms
A simpler term for hypertension, which you may be more familiar with, is high blood pressure. High blood pressure is when the force (pressure) of your blood against your artery walls is higher than it should be. When your arteries are narrow and the blood pumping through them is high, you can imagine how pressure builds.

Hypertension (or high blood pressure) is very common, predominantly in adults. And it can lead to medical conditions such as a stroke, heart attack, heart failure and even an aneurysm. It is very important to monitor your blood pressure and you’ll notice how seriously your GP will take your blood pressure when you go for a check-up and it is abnormally high.

Symptoms
WebMD lists a number of symptoms that could indicate hypertension. If you notice any of these, you should consult your doctor immediately:

• Severe headaches
• Fatigue
• Problems with your vision
• Chest pain
• Breathing difficulty
• Blood in urine

Treatment
Typically, the first thing you should do is to change your habits and lifestyle choices. Often these are what lead to initial problems with hypertension. Begin light to moderate exercise, including aerobic or cardio exercise. This can be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk every day to begin with.

It’s also a good idea to try and reduce stress. Look at what may be causing stress and try to eliminate or manage that. The consumption of alcohol and smoking can also cause your blood pressure to rise, even though you may feel that these reduce stress.

You can also take medication for hypertension, but your doctor should first be consulted and will advise on which medication best suits your condition.

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