Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Under normal circumstances the heart pumps blood around the body and in the process, develops a pressure gradient when the ventricle is contracting – this is in the region of 120 mmHg and is known as the systolic pressure. Between contractions the pressure does not reduce to zero as there is elasticity within the walls of the blood vessels which initially expand and then contract to maintain the pressure gradient. This is known as the diastolic pressure and is in the region of 80 mmHg.

There is a normal rage for both systolic and diastolic pressures in a healthy human. The normal range for systolic pressure is between 100 and 130 mmHg and for the diastolic this is between 60 and 90 mmHg. There can be some minor variations outside of these values that will have no detrimental effects but if there are large variations over a period of time then this can have dramatic ill-health effects on the body.

We are never quite sure what causes hypertension but certainly there are some significant risk factors in particular smoking, being overweight and certainly suffering from obesity. The reasons in the latter group are almost certainly because of the extra work that is required to simply pump the blood through the extra tissue in the form of adipose tissue. In some people, no particular risk factor can be identified and under these circumstances it is called essential hypertension.

A chronically raised blood pressure as previously discussed can have dramatically harmful effects on the blood vessels themselves, in particular promoting hardening of the arteries through atherosclerosis which in itself can exacerbate hypertension. This in turn can increase the risk of conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Hypertension can also result in heart failure which is where the heart simply cannot generate enough power to keep pumping the blood at the increased pressure. It also has a detrimental effect on the kidney, leading to chronic renal impairment and eventually to complete failure. It also effects the retina of the eye leading to loss of vision and eventually blindness.

Clearly if there are risk factors that are identifiable then the individual is duty bound to deal with these in order to both avoid the necessity for medication to bring it into the normal range and to avoid the long-term effects such as kidney failure and blindness. As being overweight and suffering from obesity are two of the most prominent recognised risk factors then one can see a very compelling reason for dealing with this.