Hypertension: the disease that affects half the elderly population

According to a survey by the Ministry of Health, 35% of the Brazilian population has hypertension, but half do not know they have the disease. This is because it only shows symptoms when it is very advanced and has compromised part of the body. The incidence of the disease increases with age: it is estimated that hypertension affects more than 50% of people over 65 years of age.

Cause and effect

The blood vessels constrict and force the blood to pass through the arteries and carry oxygen throughout the body after being pumped through the heart. When a person is hypertensive, the pressure is so great that the vessel walls become firmer and narrower – hence the term “high pressure”.

The small space is conducive for fat particles or clots to be trapped, which can cause a heart attack,  or the clot can come off and clog a brain vessel, causing a stroke (stroke). The kidneys are also affected by hypertension, as high blood pressure damages the arteries in the organ that lose the ability to filter blood over time.

Symptoms

Hypertension is a silent disease. The only way to know if the person has the disease is to measure the pressure.

Risk factors

There are several factors that cause the pressure to rise. Are they:

Age : it is estimated that about 50% of people over 65 have hypertension. The risks increase 80% with old age. This is because the arteries lose their flexibility over time.

Heredity : according to the Ministry of Health, 90% of people with the disease inherited from their parents.

Smoking and alcoholism : alcoholic drinks and nicotine raise blood pressure, so they are great villains for hypertensive people.

Food : Foods with a lot of salt can increase the volume of blood in the veins and arteries. This happens because of the substances present in table salt, which attract more water molecules to reach a balance. In this way, the more salt in the blood, the greater the volume of water accumulated and the circulating volume of the blood increases. Therefore, people feel thirsty when they consume something with a lot of salt.

Sedentary lifestyle and obesity : practicing physical exercises is an important action for

to prevent the onset or worsening of hypertension. Sedentary lifestyle and being overweight are harmful to blood pressure, as the heart is not “challenged” to work properly and the vessels can become more rigid.

Diagnosis

The examination is simple, done using a device that measures pressure. The healthcare professional compresses the patient’s arm and listens to the heartbeat with a stethoscope. The unit of measurement used is the millimeter of mercury (mmHg). The normal and recommended pressure is 120 x 80 mmhg – or, more popularly known, 12 by 8.

The first number is called the maximum pressure, or systolic, and is measured when the heart releases blood. The second is the minimum pressure, or diastolic, and is recorded at the moment the sound changes or disappears.

Treatment

Hypertension is a chronic disease and has no cure. However, the patient can perform an appropriate and frequent treatment, which must be chosen by the doctor. ACE-inhibiting drugs, beta-blockers, diuretics and calcium antagonists may be some of the options recommended by the specialist.

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