Hypertension

What Is It?

Hypertension is a condition that causes chronic high blood pressure. It can occur as the result of another disease or condition, or it can occur randomly with no identifiable cause. Doctors diagnose patients with hypertension when their blood pressure is repeatedly above 140 mmHg systolic or 90 mmHg diastolic. At a normal level, blood pressure hovers around 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic. The first number represents the pressure in the arteries as the blood is pumped forward and the heart contracts. The lower number measures pressure after the heart contracts and relaxes. To be diagnosed with hypertension, you need to experience chronic high blood pressure for an extended period of time.

Hypertension occurs as a result of a variety of factors including diet, weight, genetics, stress levels, and environmental factors. Some types of hypertension have no known cause, while other types have a clearly identifiable cause. Hypertension puts people at risk for strokes, heart attacks, heart failures, aneurisms, and other diseases. Your risk may be higher if you are overweight, if you do not exercise, if you eat a diet that is high in fats and salt, or if you are prone to stress.

With some forms of hypertension, there is no conclusive medical cause. With other forms of hypertension, there is a clear condition that is creating symptoms. The majority of hypertension cases have no identifiable cause.

It is important to have your blood pressured monitored regularly, either at home or at the doctor's office. In many situations, hypertension does not produce any symptoms, so high blood pressure will be the only indication of whether you are at risk for any complications. For this reason, hypertension is frequently nicknamed "the silent killer."

As hypertension becomes more severe, symptoms can include seizures, lethargy, irritability, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, confusion, and headaches. You may also experience chest pain, noise in the ear, pain in the chest, or nose bleeds.

Types

In total, there are six types of hypertension. Primary hypertension and secondary hypertension are the most common types and account for the majority of cases. While the cause for secondary hypertension is related to kidneys problems, thyroid disorders, tumors, sleep apnea, and pregnancy, the cause for primary hypertension is unknown. Malignant hypertension, isolated systolic hypertension, white coat hypertension, and resistant hypertension are the other common types of hypertension.

The majority of hypertension cases are classified as primary with no identifiable cause. With secondary hypertension, the high blood pressure occurs as a result of another condition such as a kidney problem or tumor.

Symptoms

Hypertension has the nickname "silent killer" since a person with hypertension does not experience any symptoms until the disease progresses to the stage where permanent problems from heart attacks and strokes can result.

Mild to moderate hypertension typically produces no symptoms. As hypertension becomes more severe, additional symptoms can develop including dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, shortness of breath, nose bleeds, ringing in the ears, chest pain, insomnia, and irritability. Frequently, these symptoms will prompt a doctor visit, and hypertension will be discovered as the cause.

In rare cases, hypertension is a symptom of an underlying condition such as a tumor or organ failure.

If you have hypertension, the best way to monitor your condition is by checking your blood pressure regularly. Even when the symptoms disappear, the condition can still be affecting you.

Causes & Risk Factors

Heredity, diet, and environmental factors are responsible for causing hypertension, and the risk of hypertension increases with age. Risk factors that can be controlled include obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, drinking alcohol, heavy salt intake, and stress.

Prevention & Treatment

Preferred treatment methods include lifestyle modifications and medications. First, the doctor will prescribe a diet and exercise regimen. If these attempts to control symptoms are unsuccessful, the doctor will prescribe medications. The doctor will need to monitor blood pressure regularly and may ask you to monitor blood pressure through a home testing kit. Reducing stress and eating a well balanced diet that is low in saturated fat and sodium can help prevent problems with high blood pressure.

Tests & Diagnosis

High blood pressure is measured using an inflatable cuff around the arm. This test works by blocking blood flow through an artery. The sound of the appearing and disappearing pulse can help the person or machine gauge systolic and diastolic pressure.

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