Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a medical condition affecting millions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the problem of hypertension affects over one billion people globally, and it is one of the main causes of hypertension, stroke, and kidney disease. The persistent elevation of blood pressure above the normal range characterizes hypertension. In this blog, we will discuss the complications associated with hypertension, including the causes, nursing diagnosis, hypertension diagnosis, and risk factors of heart disease.
Causes of Hypertension
Hypertension can be classified into two types: primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension, also popular as essential hypertension, is the most common type, accounting for approximately 90-95% of cases. The exact cause of primary hypertension is unknown, but several causes of hypertension can contribute to its development including:
- Genetics: A family history of hypertension increases the risk of developing the condition.
- Lifestyle factors: Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and poor diet, can contribute to the development of hypertension.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase blood pressure, especially in people with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30.
- Age: The danger of hypertension increases with age, and the prevalence of hypertension is higher in older adults.
- Smoking: Smoking can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of developing hypertension. It can also make hypertension more challenging to control.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: Consuming too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to a high level and increase the risk of developing hypertension.
- Chronic stress: Chronic stress can contribute to hypertension by increasing the body’s production of stress hormones, constricting many blood vessels and increasing blood pressure.
Secondary hypertension, on the other hand, is caused by an underlying medical condition or medication. Some of the conditions that can cause secondary hypertension include:
- Kidney disease can affect the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure, leading to hypertension.
- Adrenal gland disorders: Disorders that affect the adrenal glands, such as Cushing’s syndrome or pheochromocytoma, can cause hypertension.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: Sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops and starts during sleep, can increase blood pressure.
- Medications: Certain medications, like birth control pills, decongestants, and some prescription drugs, can cause hypertension.
Here are some of the common symptoms associated with hypertension:
- Headaches, especially in the morning
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Blurred vision
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
Nursing Diagnosis for Hypertension
Nursing diagnosis is an essential aspect of hypertension management. It involves identifying the patient’s health problems and providing appropriate nursing interventions to address those problems. The nursing diagnosis for hypertension includes:
- Ineffective self-health management: This diagnosis is given when a patient cannot manage their hypertension effectively due to a lack of knowledge or poor health habits.
- Risk for hypertension-related complications: Patients with hypertension are at increased risk of developing complications such as stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.
- Anxiety related to hypertension: Patients with hypertension may experience anxiety related to the condition, including fears about the future and the impact on their health.
- Ineffective coping related to hypertension: Patients with hypertension may experience stress related to the condition, including difficulties adjusting to lifestyle changes and needing ongoing monitoring.
Hypertension and Heart Disease
One of the most significant complications of hypertension is heart disease. High bp causes damage to the arteries and blood vessels. Consequently. it increases the risk of developing heart disease. Over time, the elevated pressure can cause the arteries to narrow and harden, a condition known as atherosclerosis. This can lead to a range of heart-related complications, including:
- Coronary artery disease: The narrowing of the coronary arteries can lead to reduced blood flow to the heart muscle, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart attacks.
- Heart failure: The damage to the heart caused by hypertension can weaken the heart muscle, making it less effective at pumping blood around the body. This can lead to heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot meet the body’s demands for blood and oxygen.
- Arrhythmia: Hypertension can also increase the risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias, which can cause palpitations, dizziness, and fainting.
- Aortic aneurysm: Hypertension can cause the walls of the aorta, the body’s largest artery, to weaken and bulge, increasing the risk of developing an aortic aneurysm, a potentially life-threatening condition.
- Peripheral artery disease: The narrowing of the arteries caused by hypertension can also affect the blood flow to the legs and feet, leading to peripheral artery disease. This can cause pain, numbness, and in severe cases, gangrene.
Hypertension diagnosis involves measuring blood pressure and determining whether it is consistently above the normal range. Blood pressure is measured using a sphygmomanometer, consisting of an inflatable cuff and a pressure gauge. Blood pressure readings are measured and expressed in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and are recorded as two numbers, systolic and diastolic. The systolic pressure represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, while the diastolic pressure represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.
The American Heart Association states normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Blood pressure readings between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg are considered prehypertensive, while readings above 140/90 mm Hg are considered hypertensive. However, a single blood pressure reading does not confirm a hypertension diagnosis. It requires multiple readings over some time.
Additionally, healthcare professionals may perform further tests to determine the cause and severity of hypertension. These tests may include the following:
- Urinalysis: This test involves analysing a urine sample to check for signs of kidney disease, which can contribute to hypertension.
- Blood tests: Blood samples can be used to check for underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or high cholesterol, which can increase the risk of developing hypertension.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This test measures the heart’s electrical activity and can determine any abnormalities contributing to hypertension.
- Echocardiogram: This test uses ultrasound technology to create images of the heart, allowing healthcare professionals to assess the structure and function of the heart.
Hypertension is a common medical condition. While the exact cause of hypertension is unknown, several factors can contribute to its development, including genetics, lifestyle habits, and underlying medical conditions. Hypertension diagnosis involves measuring blood pressure over time and performing additional tests to determine the cause and severity of the condition. Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiac disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. By managing hypertension and addressing other risk factors of heart disease, such as high cholesterol and bodily inactivity, individuals can reduce their risk of developing heart disease and improve their overall health. As always, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to diagnose and manage hypertension properly.