THE human body is more complex and more valuable than an automobile. Regrettably, those fortunate enough to own a car pay more attention to it than they do their body. When one stops to think about the superb living machine that we have in our body, one wonders why so.
Hypertension or High blood pressure is a well known condition worldwide. Hypertension usually leads to sad and devastating end results including stroke, heart attack and death. Diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular diseases) generally, and hypertension in particular, kill more people in the United States of America than any other single cause. In Nigeria and other West Africa countries, hypertension kills several hundreds and paralyses thousands yearly. In Ghana it is leading cause of death from non-communicable diseases.
Hypertension is a condition in which the delivery of blood to the cells is obstructed by the constriction (narrowing) of the blood vessels which therefore requires generating more pressure to force an adequate (normal) amount of blood through the vessels. When a blood measurement is made, two values are usually recorded the upper figure (systolic pressures), and the lower figure (the diastolic pressure). High blood pressure is defined as mean systolic pressure of 140mm Hg or above and/or a mean diastolic of 95mm Hg for persons who are 25years of age or above. Blood pressure especially systolic blood pressure tends to increase with age, particularly in persons over age 40. Blood pressure goes up with age more rapidly in women than men but this does not necessarily mean that women have a greater risk. Members of the black race develop high blood pressure two or three times more frequently than members of the white race.
The quantity of salt in the diet is a strong contributor to high risk of developing hypertension. No definite genetic pattern of blood pressure levels has been demonstrated but high blood pressure levels tend to occur in certain families. There is a greater likelihood of developing essential hypertension in individuals with a family history of the disease.
There is no doubt that a particularly tense or stressful life situation contributes in no small measure to increased blood pressure. The stress may arise from various sources including, but not limited to personal problems at home or at work both. But stress alone cannot explain this complicated disease. It is only one factor among many.
The active ingredients in cigarette smoke, nicotine, like stress, causes the blood pressure to rise directly since it’s a constrictor of blood vessels. Smokers therefore tend to have higher risk of hypertension than their non-smoking counter parts. Excess weight is another risk factor for the development of high blood pressure. Like all other factors acting alone, however, excess weight is not associated with hypertension in all persons.
From answering the questions below you can determine approximately what your chances of having hypertension is.
1. Are you 35years of age or above? YES/NO
2. Is there a history of high blood pressure in either your mother or father? Y/N
3. Did any of your natural parents (mother or father) die of stroke or heart attack? Y/N
4. Is there a history of high blood pressure in any of your other (other than mother or father) close relatives? Y/N
5. Has any of your other relatives had or died of stroke or heart attack? Y/N
6. Do you work in a stressful environment (unfriendly colleagues, high demand for performance and/or productivity)? Y/N
7. Does your job require high level administrative decision making? Y/N
8. Is there a history of diabetes in your family? Y/N
9. Have you ever been told that you have trouble with your heart? Y/N
10. Are you currently overweight (weigh more than most people of the same age group)? Y/N
11. Do you smoke up to or more than one packet of cigarettes per day? Y/N
12. Are you in the habit of adding some extra salt to your food? Y/N
13. Have you been depressed, tensed, or worried for more than a period of one year? Y/N
14. Are you a heavy drinker? Y/N
15. Do you regularly eat foods rich in fats? Y/N
16. Do you eat more than one egg per day? Y/N
17. Are you frequently caught up in heavy traffic (go-slow) on your way to work or scheduled important appointments? Y/N
18. Do you have a sedentary life? (Little or no exercise)? Y/N
19. Are you impatient? Y/N
20. Do you feel you have a nagging wife or husband? Y/N
To find out the chances that you now have or may develop hypertension in the future, add up all items you have circled “Y”. The following table indicates the likelihood of having hypertension.
15-20 Ys Extremely likely
10-14 Ys Moderately likely
5-9 Ys Average
0-4 Ys Very Unlikely