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Pre-hypertension and how to manage it

Updated on October 13, 2013

Pre-hypertension is a medical condition, when a person’s blood pressure is elevated above normal but not to the level that is considered hypertension. It should be considered when blood pressure is based upon two or more readings at two or more separate occasions separated by at least one week.

According to reliable estimates, the prevalence of pre-hypertension globally among adults is approximately 31%. Its prevalence is higher among men than women. Pre-hypertension is prevalent in about 9.5% of adolescents. Pre-hypertension raises the risk of developing hypertension. So viewing from perspective of these estimates, it can be assumed that hypertension is an emerging epidemic all over the world.

The researchers have concluded that pre-hypertension, even in low range, elevates the risk of cardio-vascular disease after adjusting for multiple cardio-vascular risk factors. Pre-hypertension independently raises the risk for stroke by about 50%, according to results of a new review of relevant research. Moreover, accelerated brain aging is found in persons with pre-hypertension, including damage to the structural integrity of white matter and the volume of grey matter.

The following table mentions the range of blood pressure readings in pre-hypertension--

 
Systolic
Diastolic
Normal blood pressure
lower than 120 mmHg
lower than 80 mmHg
Pre-hypertension
120 mmHg to 139 mmHg
80 mmHg to 89 mmHg
Hypertension
more than or equal to 140 mmHg
more than or equal to 90 mmHg

The risk factors for pre-hypertension include high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. As a matter of fact, age is not the factor for pre-hypertension or hypertension as argued by many.

Causes--

The possible conditions that can lead to pre-hypertension include--

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney disease
  • Adrenal disease
  • Tyhroid disease
  • Certain medications, including birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs, may also lead to pre-hypertension. Illegal drugs such as cocain and amphetamine can have the same effect.

Managing pre-hypertension-

Pre-hypertension is a warning sign that it may develop into hypertension so it becomes necessary to manage it successfully. The following steps may be taken to prevent it from developing into hypertension –

  • Lose weight- Overweight or obesity is a risk factor for pre-hypertension. A modest weight loss can reduce it from developing into hypertension by 20%.
  • Follow DASH diet- DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet includes eating more fruits and vegetables, low dairy foods, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts and less of foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, red meat and sweets.
  • Do regular exercise- It will lower the body weight as well as blood pressure.
  • Eat foods low in saturated and trans fats- These foods may lead to obesity and heart disease.
  • Restrict salt- One should restrict salt to less than 2,300 mgs of salt (sodium) which amounts to 1 teaspoonful of table salt.
  • Drink in moderation- Limit drinking to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
  • Stress control- Meditation and other stress control techniques help lower the blood pressure. Healthful living will prevent increased blood pressure in many cases and, therefore, replace or reduce medication in some cases.

The majority of cases of pre-hypertension will be easily managed by the above measures but a doctor’s advice may be required for some cases.

Highlights—

  • The prevalence of pre-hypertension is approximately 31% globally which is likely to increase unless preventive measures are adopted at the individual level. Pre-hypertension raises the risk of developing hypertension.
  • It raises the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke and mental decline. These risk factors should encourage us to adopt the preventive measures to prevent it from developing into hypertension.
  • Pre-hypertension can be managed successfully with lifestyle modifications

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