High blood pressure and ways to avoid it by adopting healthy lifestyle habits were discussed at the latest instalment of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s (WCM-Q) Ask the Expert series.
Dr Mai Mahmoud, assistant professor of medicine at WCM-Q, spoke to members of the public about the causes and symptoms of hypertension, as well as the health risks the condition carries, such as increased likelihood of heart disease, stroke and kidney damage.
Hypertension is defined as blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or higher in one number or both. Around 90% of people diagnosed with hypertension have what is known as essential or primary hypertension, which simply means that there is no known cause of their condition.
However, a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role in bringing on the condition, explained Dr Mahmoud. For example, people are more likely to suffer hypertension if they are obese, suffer from insulin resistance, high blood lipids, or if they consume large amounts of alcohol or salt.
The risk of suffering hypertension is increased in people aged over 60 years and in people of black ethnicity. Less than 10% of hypertension cases have a known cause, some examples of which are kidney disease, increased levels of some hormones like cortisol and aldosterone, and other rare causes.
Dr Mahmoud said, “Hypertension is associated with increased risk of suffering quite serious health complications, including stroke and heart attacks, but the good news is that in many cases the complications are preventable by treating blood pressure with medications and making small positive changes to our lifestyles.
“Taking regular exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet that incorporates plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, cutting down on caffeine and quitting smoking can all help to reduce high blood pressure and even impede the progression from prehypertension to full-blown hypertension.”
However, Dr Mahmoud stressed the importance of seeking regular professional help from a qualified physician for those suffering with hypertension. Studies have shown that blood pressure measurements taken in clinical settings by professionals sometimes return higher readings than those measured at home with a personal monitor, a condition called ‘white coat hypertension’.
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