High blood pressure: Who is at risk?
Certain factors make you more likely to develop high blood pressure. Note that these factors do not act singly but in concert. Your risk of developing hypertension at all or getting it earlier depends on the combination of risk factors you identify with. The following are the most important ones in no particular order.
Multiple research studies have shown that people of African heritage are more prone to developing hypertension. It has been shown to develop at an earlier age than in other races, be more challenging to treat, and also cause early onset of severe organ damage, including kidney failure, heart attack, hypertensive visual impairment, and stroke.
Variations exist among African people. Certain ethnic groups are known to have a high prevalence of hypertension than others. In Kenya for instance, it is known that there is higher prevalence of high blood pressure among the Kikuyu than other tribes. Sadly, no nationwide studies have been done to verify this assertion. However, given the experiences of doctors in hospitals in central region, it is a fair bet any study will only confirm this.
Many chronic diseases tend to have a heritable characteristic. As noted above, the closer people are related, the more likely they are to have hypertension. A family is just a smaller unit of the race or ethnic group, and therefore, more likelihood of developing hypertension a close relative also has it. The closer the relationship the high the risk.
It is a common understanding that chronic diseases mostly affect older people. This is because the body’s compensatory mechanisms become less efficient as age progresses. For high blood pressure, the risk increases significantly past the age of 60 years. This occurs earlier in men than women because estrogens have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. It is, however, advisable that you begin regularly checking your blood pressure at around the age of forty. When caught early enough, lifestyle modifications can help control the pressure without resulting straight to medications.
Just as with age, the risk of developing hypertension is directly proportional to your weight. A person who is overweight has a higher risk than one who is not, and one who is obese has an even higher risk than one who is overweight. Higher body mass places higher demands on the circulatory system and leads to certain modifications in the heart and the vascular network. Also, certain chemicals are produced to augment the circulatory function to reach the threshold required.
The best way to approach this is to look at those who are physically active and fit. To accommodate for the physical strain of exercise, the heart becomes more efficient so that it can supply the entire body even at lower pumping pressure and fewer heartbeats per minute. This is aided by the arteries whose distribution changes to make the supply of oxygen and nutrients to tissues more efficient. This means the heart doesn’t need to work too hard to achieve its function. People who are less fit have higher resting blood pressure and heart rate than fit persons of the same age, sex, race, and other characteristics.
It is a fact that many patients with high blood pressure know; you have to reduce your salt intake. This is because table salt contains sodium, which is the single most important element in water regulation in the body. The more of it in the body, the higher the blood volume and the higher the pressure.
Chemicals that damage blood vessels
These include tobacco and alcohol use. The chemicals in these substances damage the lining of blood vessels and the heart leading to poor regulation of blood pressure. One should stop tobacco use entirely and drink alcohol in moderation.
This list isn’t exhaustive. It is meant to make you place yourself at a risk scale and take action before it is too late. Some of the factors cannot be changed such as ethnicity, family and even age. The important thing is to change what can be changed such as taking up exercise, shedding some of the extra weight, and quitting any destructive habits.