In a nutshell, chronic diseases are those that persist for a long-time, usually taken to mean over 3 months. It is an umbrella term enveloping a wide range of conditions with one common factor: they are persistent. They differ from the acute illness or disease that sees you in and out of treatment in a short space of time. Chronic diseases on the other hand require long term management, planning and an approach that spans months, and often, years.
We need to take chronic diseases seriously. Just to throw some statistics in to the mix: chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States alone. About half of all adults in the United States have one or more chronic health conditions, and one in four had two or more. This means a high proportion are living their daily life with a chronic disease.
In 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) cited there were four main chronic diseases or conditions: Cardiovascular (including hypertension); Cancers; Chronic Respiratory Diseases (such as COPD and asthma); and Diabetes. Added to this there is a whole raft of other diseases that come under the definition of a chronic disease. For example: Neurodegenerative Diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s; Autoimmune Conditions such as Colitis, Lupus or Crohn’s Disease; Chronic Pain Conditions; Thyroid Disease; Arthritic Condition such as Rheumatoid Arthritis; Epilepsy; Fibromyalgia; and Multiple Sclerosis to name just a few.
Whilst some people can simply be unfortunate and develop a chronic disease for reasons beyond their control, there are known, inherent risk factors that increase an individual’s predisposition to chronic diseases. These include: obesity; lack of physical exercise; poor nutrition; smoking and tobacco use; and excessive alcohol consumption.
Hypertension is what many of us think of as High Blood Pressure, sustained over a long period of time. This means that the pressure in the arteries is persistently raised. Whilst hypertension, and prolonged high blood pressure, doesn’t by itself usually cause symptoms, the concern comes because it is a major risk factor in individuals going on to develop a range of other conditions, illnesses and diseases. Hypertension is known to be a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, strokes, heart failure and heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease, vision loss and chronic kidney disease.
Globally, it is predicted, that there will be 1.56 billion people living with Hypertension by 2025
Most people will have had their blood pressure taken at one time or other. It’s done using a simple painless machine that takes two readings of the blood pressure in your body: the Systolic Pressure (the pressure as your heart is actively pumping blood around your body) and the Diastolic Pressure (the pressure as your heart relaxes and blood pools back in). For your blood pressure to be considered elevated you can either have raised single, or dual readings: either Systolic or Diastolic, or both. Blood pressure is deemed to be high when over 140/90 although many medical professionals would still advocate a much lower level than this.
For high blood pressure to be the chronic condition of Hypertension the high readings need to be sustained over time. Blood pressure is not static and varies for a variety of reasons. You are likely to have considerably lower bloody pressure whilst asleep compared to waking, or lying down compared to standing. Your blood pressure becomes temporarily elevated at times of severe stress or during and after exercising hard. Blood pressure also steadily increases with age. Therefore, for raised blood pressure to be the chronic condition of Hypertension, readings need to be taken regularly and at several points over a period of time.
We’ve already heard that Hypertension is a precursor to other conditions, complaints and illnesses such as heart disease and stroke. However, there are two distinct forms of Hypertension.
Firstly, there is the most common type of Hypertension known as Primary Hypertension. This accounts for the vast majority of cases and are primarily due to a range of non-specific lifestyle and genetic factors. The remaining minority of Hypertension sufferers are classified as having Secondary Hypertension. Their Hypertension is caused by an identifiable cause such as Chronic Kidney Disease, Endocrine Disorder or the Contraceptive Pill.
A number of factors come in to play to elevate an individual’s risk of Hypertension. To start with there are basic factors such as age (over-60s have a greater propensity for Hypertension); Race (individuals of black descent such as African Americans or Afro-Caribbeans are at a higher risk than Caucasians for example); and Gender (men are prone to Hypertension at a younger age, women are more prone at an older age).
In addition to these general factors are lifestyle risks. Obesity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption all increase your risk of Hypertension.
All treatment for chronic diseases relies on management techniques. For Hypertension this combines limiting your lifestyle factors that are causing the hypertension. These include weight loss, reducing the salt in your diet, increasing your exercise and eating a healthy diet.
In addition, those with chronic Hypertension may be put on medication to lower your blood pressure such as thiazide diuretics, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARB’s and beta blockers.
At WizeLife we believe in bringing health information, tailored specifically to you, to your inbox via a simple, easy, online assessment. Compiled by medical experts using a plethora of the most up to date medical studies, we can assess your risk factors for chronic diseases such as Hypertension. However, knowledge is power and so we go beyond this. We actively give you information and advice based on your known health risks compared to a perfectly healthy virtual patient, and advise you on what you can do to target elevated risks and reduce them in line with an ideal health basis, making you healthier and less at risk. To see if you are at risk of Hypertension, take our 7-minute test now by clicking HERE
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