Hypertension is one of the main causes of stroke. It is also known as high blood pressure. It damages blood vessel walls. Hypertension and its complications account for an estimated 9.4 million deaths every year.
High blood pressure is defined as a systolic blood pressure above 140 mmHg and/or a diastolic blood pressure above 90 mmHg. Systolic blood pressure is the maximum pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts. Diastolic blood pressure is the minimum pressure in the arteries between the heart's contractions. You will be classed as having high blood pressure if the pressure is consistently above 140/90 mmHg.
Globally, hypertension causes 7.6 million premature deaths annually and 6.0 per cent of the global burden of disease is attributable to hypertension. A recent report suggests 18 per cent or 12 million of adults aged 25 years or older in Bangladesh suffer from hypertension with higher prevalence in the urban than the rural population.
In most cases it is impossible to pinpoint an exact cause. However, there are a number of risk factors that have been linked to high blood pressure. These include: a family history of high blood pressure, age (blood pressure can rise as people get older), men are more likely to have high blood pressure than women, being overweight, excessive alcohol drinking, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, and a diet high in salt.
The strain hypertension places on all blood vessels makes them weak and predisposes them to damage. The heart also has to work harder to keep blood circulating.
Once blood vessels weaken they are more likely to block. This can cause an ischemic stroke and hypertension is the main cause of this type of stroke and also transient ischemic attacks. Less often, hypertension is implicated in hemorrhagic strokes when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and blood leaks into the brain.
How to prevent hypertension: maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, cut back on salt, regular exercise, limit alcohol intake, monitor your blood pressure, Reduce your stress, quit smoking, supportive family and friends can help improve your health.
Occupational Therapist, National Institute of Neurosciences & Hospital (NINS & H), Dhaka