What is Hypertension or high blood pressure
Hypertension is the clinical name for high blood pressure. Although hypertension may evolve with or without symptoms, patients should have their blood pressure checked regularly as hypertension increases the risk of having other health complications such as strokes and heart attacks. Blood pressure is the measure of how much blood the heart pumps as well as the resistance blood meets on its way through the arteries. If the heart requires more work than average to pump the blood the body needs, or if the blood is met with excessive pressure on its way through the arteries, this is considered high blood pressure, or hypertension.
Almost everyone will experience hypertension in their life time. Most patients experience hypertension by the time they are 55 years old. Those who don’t still have at least a 90% chance of developing hypertension by the time they reach 80 years old. Once hypertension has been diagnosed, it is fairly simple to manage.
Hypertension is typically silent and doesn’t usually display signs or symptoms even when reach levels that are considered dangerously high. Some patients with normally lower blood pressure who suddenly develop hypertension may experience headaches, dizziness, or a few nosebleeds, although this is most likely to happen if the blood pressure reaches life threatening levels. Some patients who experience a sharp increase in blood pressure due to medication reactions may experience dizziness, blurry vision, and shortness of breath. These symptoms require emergency medical attention.
Most hypertension cases have no specific cause. While diet, lack of exercise, and lifestyle may contribute, many people with perfectly healthy habits still develop high blood pressure. Only a little under 10% of hypertension cases can be attributed to an actual cause. Medications such as birth control pills, decongestants, over the counter pain relievers, and prescription medications have been proven to raise blood pressure. Certain medical conditions such as adrenal gland tumors, abnormalities of the kidneys, and congenital heart defects can also lead to hypertension. A 2005 study showed that women who took at least 500 milligrams of Tylenol or other acetaminophen products daily over the course of several years were much more likely to develop high blood pressure. The study did not leave evidence in either direction regarding men.
Risk factors for hypertension include race (African Americans are more prone to hypertension as well as health risks associated with hypertension), age, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, family history, low potassium intake, high sodium intake, the use of tobacco, stress, and excessive use of alcohol. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, sleep apnea, kidney disease, and sometimes pregnancy. A recent study showed that clerical and unskilled workers who worked more than 40 hours per week had higher blood pressure than those who worked in professional trades and worked 40 hours or less per week.
The growing trend of eating processed foods, snacking on unhealthy foods, lack of exercise and sitting in front of the television has meant that a higher number of American children are now developing high blood pressure before the age of 18, often before the age of 12.
Normal blood pressure reads 120/80 mm Hg or below. Hypertension is diagnosed at above 120/80 mm Hg. Stage 1 hypertension can be diagnosed between 140/90 mm Hg to 159/99 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension is diagnosed between 160/100 mm Hg or higher. Since blood pressure is known to fluctuate, it is important that several readings are taken at various times of day on several occasions.
Complications from hypertension can be very severe, including an increased risk for strokes, heart attacks, damage to the arteries, heart failure, thickened or narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes, metabolic syndrome, blocked or ruptured blood vessel in the brain, or weakened and narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys.
While in theory hypertension can be simple to treat, the treatments can prevent life threatening complications. The simplest and safest treatment options include changes in lifestyle including diet and adding additional exercise to a daily routine. Medications that cause hypertension may be changed if possible. Sometimes medications can be added to diet and exercise.
Limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco, and learning to manage stress can all add to a complimentary health care plan that can reduce hypertension back down to safe and manageable levels. Maintaining a consistent routine is vital, as it takes time to lower blood pressure. However, lowering blood pressure also significantly reduces the chances of a heart attack or stroke.
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