Causes And Treatment For High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) often does not cause any discomfort and is nevertheless one of the greatest dangers to the heart. If left untreated, there is a risk of heart attack, stroke or kidney damage. All about typical risk factors and the most common causes of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure shortens life

Statistically, untreated hypertension reduces life expectancy by a full eleven years. Since the symptoms are often absent or unspecific, only about one in two people with hypertension knows about their disease. Only every fourth person is treated correctly. “Everyone should have their blood pressure checked,” says Prof. Hermann Haller, Chairman of the German High Pressure League (Deutsche Hochdruckliga e.V.). Particularly important are the measurements on people over 45, overweight people and patients with other risk factors such as diabetes or fat metabolism disorders.

High blood pressure threatens stroke or heart attack

In order to supply our organs and muscles with oxygen and nutrients, our heart continuously pumps blood through the body. During exertion or stress, the pressure in the blood vessels is increased to increase performance. This does not hurt and usually does not cause any noticeable discomfort. However, if the pressure is permanently too high, the vessel walls will be damaged. Especially if other risk factors are present, the vessels can narrow. There is a risk of stroke or heart attack.

Primary and secondary hypertension

In order to differentiate the reasons for high blood pressure, doctors distinguish between primary hypertension (also called essential hypertension) and secondary hypertension. In addition to these two, there are special forms that are usually only of temporary duration. One example is pregnancy hypertension.

Primary hypertension is the most common form of high blood pressure in almost 90 percent of cases. It has no organic cause for high blood pressure. Researchers suspect that hereditary factors reduce the elasticity of the blood vessels. As a consequence, the heart muscle has to pump more. This is achieved by higher pressure. In addition to genetic disposition, too much alcohol, smoking, stress, poor nutrition and diabetes are the causes of primary hypertension.

Secondary hypertension is caused by disturbances or diseases of the organs. Possible causes include anomalies in the cardiovascular system or diseases of the kidneys. Over- or under functions in the hormone system are also possible causes.

Causes of high blood pressure

How the body regulates blood pressure is not yet fully understood. It uses biochemical messengers, organs, blood vessels and the nervous system. It is still unclear where this mechanism is so disturbed that high blood pressure develops.

However, there are some factors that favour high blood pressure:

  • Too little exercise
  • unhealthy diet
  • Overweight (abdominal girth from 102 cm for men, from 88 cm for women)
  • increased blood sugar (diabetes mellitus)
  • smoking
  • liquor
  • stress

Basically, the risk of high blood pressure increases in men aged 55 and over, and in women hormonal changes usually increase from the menopause onwards.

Drugs for high blood pressure – yes or no?

If it is not enough to change to a healthy lifestyle, the doctor will prescribe medication to keep the blood pressure in check. About every third patient even needs several different medications until the blood pressure normalizes. Both the reliable intake and regular blood pressure checks by the doctor are important.

Myocardial Insufficiency And Its Effects On The Heart And Body

The terms cardiac insufficiency, weak heart and myocardial insufficiency have one and the same meaning: the heart can no longer pump sufficient amounts of blood through the body. Ultimately, this has far-reaching consequences – not only for the heart itself, but for all organs that suffer from a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Here you can find out why you should take heart failure seriously and what consequences it has for the body.

Heart muscle weakness or normal signs of old age?

The heart has to do a lot in a human life. In a 75-year-old, it has pumped an average of almost 180 million litres of blood through the body in the course of his or her life. Isn’t it normal for the heart to weaken with age? It’s not that simple: a healthy heart can live to be 100 years old without showing signs of poor performance. For the sake of health, warning signals should be taken seriously! For example, if you feel swollen legs in the evening or breathlessness during a walk, you should not simply blame this on your advanced age. Behind this can be a heart muscle weakness, which doctors call heart failure.

Myocardial insufficiency: More than stress for heart and body

For a long time it was assumed that the heart did not have enough power to pump in the case of cardiac insufficiency. But it is not only the strength that the weak heart lacks. In the course of the cardiac insufficiency, the heart also changes – it enlarges and “wears out”. The reason for the change is that due to the lower pumping force, the heart has to exert itself over a longer period of time in order to transport sufficient blood through the body. This is an additional strain on the organism. Since the heart is a muscle, it tries to compensate for the higher effort by increasing muscle formation. The heart becomes both heavier and stiffer and less elastic.

The result: the blood supply to the heart and the body deteriorates continuously. The resulting lack of oxygen means great stress for the body and its organs. It therefore reacts with various measures to maintain normal bodily functions as far as possible. So-called compensation mechanisms ensure normal blood circulation for some time, but in the long term they continue to damage the heart and lead to the typical symptoms of heart muscle weakness.

How far has myocardial insufficiency progressed? Classification into four stages

Doctors use a New York Heart Association (NYHA) scheme to assess the severity of cardiac insufficiency. It is divided into four different stages; NYHA stages 1 to 4.

At severity 1, heart failure is medically present, but the patient hardly notices any symptoms. In stages 2 and 3, the disease progresses. Complaints arise with stronger to light strains, but not at rest. In stage 4, on the other hand, the disease is very advanced: The patient is bedridden and also has to struggle with severe symptoms such as shortness of breath at rest.

Click here for an overview of the 4 NYHA stages.

Unfortunately, cardiac insufficiency very often occurs in combination with other diseases, known as concomitant diseases or comorbidities. Frequent examples are diabetes or kidney weakness. About 50 percent of affected patients have more than five different concomitant diseases. They usually influence both the course of the heart muscle weakness and the quality of life of the patient. Therefore, not only the treatment of heart failure is important, but also the treatment of concomitant diseases. On the one hand, the progression of cardiac insufficiency is stopped in the best possible way; on the other hand, patients who adhere to the treatments agreed with their doctor are better off.

Here you will find the right contact person to turn to if you have heart failure.

What To Know About Strokes

A stroke is the result of a sudden disturbance in the blood supply to the brain because blood vessels clog, tear or burst. As a result, parts of the brain are no longer supplied with oxygen and nutrients.

Stroke symptoms vary depending on which part of the brain is affected. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • visual or speech disorders
  • signs of paralysis
  • numbness sensations
  • unsteady gait.

In any case, immediate action must be taken if one or more of these symptoms occur. As a patient or relative, call 112 immediately or see a doctor, because a stroke can only be treated optimally in the first three to four and a half hours.

What causes a stroke?

Most strokes are caused by reduced blood flow. This is caused by calcification of the blood vessels or by blood clots. More rarely, it is caused by a cerebral hemorrhage, for example by a burst aneurysm.

Can I reduce the risk of stroke?

You can have your personal stroke risk determined by having your doctor perform a gentle ultrasound examination of your carotid artery. If the constriction is severe, the risk of stroke can be reduced by an operation to remove deposits from the carotid artery.

Further risk factors are for example:

  • Hypertension,
  • Overweight,
  • Smoking,
  • Diabetes,
  • a high cholesterol level,
  • Tendency to thrombosis.

Some of these risk factors such as smoking or obesity can be influenced by a healthy lifestyle. This includes not smoking, exercise and a healthy diet.

Who is particularly at risk?

In general, people over the age of 60 are more at risk, but young people can also be affected and should take symptoms very seriously. Women suffer strokes more often than men because they live five years longer on average.

What is the risk of having a second stroke?

People who have already suffered a stroke have a higher risk of having another stroke. Especially in the first year after a circulatory disorder of the brain has been overcome, the risk is increased. It is therefore all the more important to reduce the risk factors after a stroke and to ensure a healthy lifestyle.