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What is Hypertension, what are the challenges, and does it qualify as a disabiity?

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure, HBP) Overview

Hypertension or high blood pressure as it is commonly referred to, is a grave medical condition that can lead to heart attack and death.

High blood pressure happens when mechanisms that regulate blood pressure flowing through blood vessels act up causing unnecessary pressure in the walls of such vessels

It can lead to bursting of blood vessels causing hemorrhage which may lead to death. Hypertension is a high risk factor to other conditions and diseases including brain, heart and kidney diseases among others.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there were 1.13 billion people living with hypertension in the world in 2015. Third world countries especially in Africa bear the biggest blunt and burden of hypertension with a prevalence rate of 27%.

Types of hypertension

High blood pressure is classified into two broad categories, primary and secondary hypertension.

Primary hypertension

A person is said to have primary hypertension when the cause of their high blood pressure cannot be identified despite the tests and symptoms proving its existence.

Also referred to as essential hypertension, this type HBP is most common in adults and is suspected to be caused by a combination of lifestyle, age, diets and genetics factors.

Secondary Hypertension

In this type, the cause of HBP is identifiable and it can be reversed. This type is more prevalent in children. The most common causes of secondary hypertension are:

·       Narrow kidney arteries

·       Problems with suprarenal gland (adrenal gland)

·       Aortic coarctation

·       Obstructive sleep apnea

·       Drug abuse like use of cocaine

·       Side effects resulting from use of medicines

·       Hyperthyroidism

Other Types Of HBP Include

·       Isolated hypertension

·       Resistant hypertension

·       Malignant hypertension

Symptoms of  HBP

Hypertension manifests in many diverse symptoms which vary from one person to another. Most of those signs and symptoms are similar to those of many other problems which makes it difficult to notice them as being those with HBP. Some of these signs are mild while others are severe.

Mild Symptoms

Mild symptoms can be easily dismissed as signs of any other non-life-threatening illness despite potentially, building up to dangerously high blood pressure. Symptoms to be aware of include:

·       Mild headaches especially early in the morning

·       Trouble sleeping

·       Sweating

·       Dizziness

·       Nervousness

·       Fatigue

·       Confusion

Severe Symptoms

Hypertension may present with more severe symptoms pointing out to extremely dangerous levels. These symptoms may include:

·       Severe headaches

·       Severe chest pains

·       Nose bleeding

·       Irregular heartbeat

·       Breathing difficulties

·       Clots of blood in urine

·       Pounding heartbeat pulse around the neck and ears

·       Chronic fatigue

·       Blurred vision

Treatment and Management

Most HBP cases are caused by unhealthy lifestyles and can be managed through leading a healthy lifestyle.

For secondary hypertension cases, the causes of HBP are diagnosed and treated, upon successful treatment, the pressure goes back to normal.

Drugs are also administered to regulate blood pressure especially in the primary type of HBP where the causes are unidentifiable.

One type of drug may work for some people while others may need a combination of drugs. Settling for what works for you is a matter of trial and error and thus you should keep your doctor updated after every prescription until you feel better.

Healthy Lifestyle Practices

·       Eating a balanced diet with less salt

·       Keeping physically fit through regular exercising

·       Avoiding obesity by maintaining recommended healthy weight

·       Responsible intake of alcohol

·       Stop smoking and taking tobacco in any form including chewing

·       Avoid stress

·       Minimize caffeine

·       Monitor your blood pressure at home or by visiting clinic for check up

Risk Factors

It’s very important that you are aware of factors that will put you at risk of hypertension so that you can avoid them. Some of these risk factors are unavoidable so concentrate on the ones you can avoid. They include:

·       Family history: hypertension may run in the family and therefore, you may be at a higher risk.

·       Age: risk of getting HBP increases with age and therefore, you should strive to lead a healthier lifestyle as your age increases.

·       Tobacco use: use of tobaccos whether smoked or otherwise puts you at a high risk of developing HBP.

·       Alcohol: heavy drinking increases your chances of getting hypertension.

·       Race: Africans and black people are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure than white people.

·       Overweight and obesity

·       High salt intake

·       Stress and life pressures

·       Other diseases like kidney diseases

Hypertension & Disability

Currently, there are no research findings or data which directly link any particular type of disability to hypertension risk. Persons with disability, therefore, face the same risk as those without disabilities.

Those with physical disabilities which limit their mobility should like everybody else keep fit by exercising and physiotherapy. This will minimize their risks of getting hypertension as a result of physical inactivity.

Their physical inactivity could also link to constriction, clogging up of blood vessels and blood clots which can lead to hypertension.

Complications associated with bowel movement and bladder control suffered by people with disabilities are also risk factors for hypertension. Such people should keep these complications in check to minimize the risks of getting HBP.

Does Hypertension Qualify You for Disability Benefits?

Hypertension itself does not qualify someone for disability benefits in many countries across the word. This is because hypertension does not fit within the definition of disability as stipulated in many disability and insurance laws.

In Kenya for instance, disability is defined as "a physical, sensory, mental or other impairment, including any visual, hearing, learning or physical incapability, which impacts adversely on social, economic or environmental participation.”

This definition does not qualify hypertension as a disability in Kenya thus people with hypertension do not qualify for disability benefits, unless if the hypertension results to a permanent disability like visual impairment.

In the US, people with hypertension qualify for high blood pressure disability benefits if they develop conditions from HBP which make it impossible for them to work. Such conditions include:

·       Heart diseases like coronary heart disease

·       Kidney disease

·       Brain disease

·       Vision loss

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