Hypertension is a chronic disease which is constantly on the increase throughout the world. It is now the leading cause of morbidity and mortality according to the World Health Organization. This disease, whose consequences can be severe, can be controlled well if detected early and treated appropriately.
The two numbers given by your doctor are those of the pressure when the heart contracts and when the heart relaxes. For simplification purposes, they are no longer given as millimetres of mercury but as centimetres of mercury and must not exceed 14 for the top number and 9 for the bottom number. When your doctor takes your blood pressure and announces 12/8, it means that all is well, your blood pressure is within normal limits.
Hypertension increases the risk of heart failure, myocardial infarction, obliterating arteriopathy of the lower limbs (narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the legs) and renal insufficiency.
A question of
To understand the condition better, it is important to know what blood pressure is. All cells need oxygen to live. This is transported by the blood, more specifically by the red cells, via a network of arteries which supplies the whole body. Blood is pumped into the arteries with each contraction of the heart muscle, requiring a certain level of pressure in order to reach each cell of the body.
This pressure which is exerted on the arteries with each contraction is known as systolic pressure and must not exceed 140 millimetres of mercury (unit to measure pressure). Then, between each heart muscle contraction, known as systole, the heart relaxes, and this is known as diastole. However, even during the relaxation phase, pressure must be maintained in the arteries in order to prevent their collapse: this is the diastolic pressure. This minimum pressure must not exceed 90 millimetres of mercury.
No warning signs
We do not feel our blood as it continues to flow within our bodies. What is more, when blood pressure increases, we still do not experience any symptoms – at least not in the beginning – which is why regular blood pressure checks are essential. They are quick, painless and the result is given immediately. You also have the option to take your own blood pressure using a portable blood pressure monitor and discuss the readings with your doctor.
Multiple risk factors
While the factors that influence blood pressure differ, their consequences are the same. Blood pressure that is too high weakens and stiffens the arteries, promoting the development of plaque (cholesterol deposits on the artery walls). The convergence of these factors reduces the free circulation of blood flow and increases the work of the heart muscle which fights the arterial resistance. In hypertensive patients, the arteries are fragile and the heart is under additional strain.
For some risk factors, nothing can be done. Examples of these include age: 40% of 65-year-olds and 90% of 85-year-olds suffer from hypertension; family history – this doubles the risk of hypertension and can affect younger patients; and certain diseases or treatments which, indirectly, promote hypertension, such as renal insufficiency or hyperthyroidism.
We have been active in cardiology for over 50 years, and most particularly in hypertension with our products prescribed to 15 million patients worldwide. Since not all hypertensive patients are the same, we offer solutions to tailor and adapt treatment to the individual and to the various stages of their treatment.
In our desire to provide the best support to patients wishing to reduce the number of medications they take daily, we are working on new drug combinations, dual or triple therapies, which combine the efficacy of multiple medications in one tablet or one capsule. We are also developing polypills in which the same tablet contains, for example, a treatment for hypertension and a treatment for cholesterol.
We also offer applications and websites for monitoring treatments, providing information on dietetics or exercices adapted to hypertension, which contributes to better patient support. New digital services are being developed, including treatment reminder services because the lack of treatment follow-up remains one of the main reasons for non-control of blood pressure.
See your doctor regularlyAlthough effective medication exists, if hypertension is not detected it cannot be treated.
Take your medication as directedIf you are already on medication for hypertension, follow it carefully: this is known
as compliance and is essential for good control and successful treatment.
Trust your loved onesThey are best placed to spot the warning signs of hypertension and encourage you to stick to your treatment.