Hypertension Causes & Risk Factors

Published: February 6, 2012

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What Are the Causes?

A distinction must be made between hypertension and high blood pressure. High blood pressure can occur at any point in time for a variety of reasons including stress, alcohol consumption, diet, and fatigue. Usually, high blood pressure is fleeting and will return to normal within a relatively short amount of time. No treatment is necessary, but the doctor may require that you relax and exercise.Hypertension, on the other hand, is a chronic condition that is persistent and potentially dangerous. If you have high blood pressure, the doctor will have you sit for regular blood pressure tests to see if your symptoms stabilize. If you continue to experience high blood pressure, then you will likely be diagnosed with hypertension.

The majority of hypertension cases are primary or essential, meaning that there is no identifiable cause. A small number of hypertension cases are secondary, meaning that the cause is a symptom of an identifiable cause such as a brain tumor or kidney disorder. Reasons for all six types of hypertension involve a combination of environmental and hereditary factors.

Your diet and lifestyle can influence whether your blood pressure is high. If you are dehydrated or if you have an excessive amount of salt in your system, you are at risk for high blood pressure. For this reason, it is important to eat balanced meals that limit salt and fat intake.

Your lifestyle can also affect whether you develop hypertension. A sedentary lifestyle can cause hypertension; however, it is possible to reverse and control the condition with exercise. High levels of stress can also cause you to develop hypertension.

Other factors that can cause hypertension include your personal and family genetic history. Typically, hypertension runs in the family. If your parents had it, then you might also be at risk. The conditions that hypertension triggers, including diabetes, heart disease, and strokes also run in the family.

It is difficult to reverse or control hypertension without a clear understanding of the cause. With secondary hypertension, the cause of your high blood pressure is recognizable and tends to be related to kidney problems, thyroid disorders, tumors, and sleep apnea. After identifying the underlying cause, it is possible to control and reverse the effects of hypertension.

Who's at Risk?

Hypertension affects certain demographic groups more than others. Studies reveal that the disease occurs at higher rates among populations of older black women. In general, blacks are at higher risk for the disease than whites. The reasons for this trend are generally unknown but might be related to diet, lifestyle, and genetic factors.

Hypertension is frequently nicknamed "the silent killer." People with hypertension may not realize that their blood pressure is chronically high and cannot take preventative measures against strokes, heart attacks, and high cholesterol.

Similarly, people may show symptoms of hypertension without showing additional symptoms of an underlying condition. Because the majority of hypertension cases are primary, meaning that there is no clearly identifiable cause, an underlying condition such as kidney failure or tumors may go unnoticed unless other symptoms are present or unless the patient is required to undergo preventative testing.

People who experience high levels of stress are at risk for hypertension-related complications such as strokes and heart attacks. Stress related to work, family, and other factors can all cause symptoms to become more severe. In rare situations, patients who also suffer from sleep apnea may experience disturbances in their sleep. Some hypertension patients experience neurological problems.

Women who are pregnant should seek close medical attention since complications can result for both the mother and baby. Mortality is a risk for infants with mothers who experience hypertension. Some doctors prescribe bed rest to pregnant women who experience hypertension.

All hypertension are at an increased risk for strokes, renal failure, heart attacks, and coronary artery disease. Medications can help reduce these risks, but the medications themselves can pose additional risks for other conditions.

If you start to develop symptoms such as chest pain, confusion, ringing in the ears, bloody noses, fatigue, and vision problems, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible to rule out the different forms of hypertension. Since mild to moderate hypertension typically goes unnoticed, symptoms that are prevalent could indicate a more serious complication. You should visit the doctor as soon as possible for your routine diagnostic tests to prevent problems in the future.

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