Hypertension: Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment

Overview

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common and dangerous condition. Having this condition means that the pressure of your blood in your blood vessels is higher than it should be. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood. If the amount of blood your pumps increases and/or your arteries narrow, your blood pressure will become higher.

1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure, but only about half of them keep their high blood pressure under control.

High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are two leading causes of death in the USA.

Symptoms

One important reason why high blood pressure is so dangerous is that people with this condition often don’t have any warning signs or symptoms at all until it has been very severe. Many people are unaware that their high blood pressure has developed over many years. Some people may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds. Serious complications may also occur, including:

  • Aneurysms
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Eye damage
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Stroke
  • Vascular dementia

Therefore, it is quite crucial to check your blood pressure regularly so that you can prevent or control high blood pressure in time.

Causes

High blood pressure can be divided into two types: primary hypertension and secondary hypertension.

In most cases, adults develop high blood pressure over many years. No other factors lead to this condition. This type is called primary hypertension.

But secondary hypertension can be caused by various conditions and medications, such as:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Certain defects you’re born with (congenital) in blood vessels
  • Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines

Risk factors

If you have the following factors, you will be at a high risk of high blood pressure:

  • Age. As you grow older, the possibility that you have high blood pressure increases.
  • Race. High blood pressure is more common in people of African heritage.
  • Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
  • Being overweight or obese. The more obese you are, the greater the risk of this condition is.
  • Not being physically active. People who lack enough physical activity have a higher risk.
  • Using tobacco. The lining of your artery walls can be destroyed by chemicals in tobacco, which will force your arteries to narrow and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Too much salt (sodium) in your diet. Too much salt will make your body retain fluid, and thus increase the risk.
  • Too little potassium in your diet. Without enough potassium, too much sodium will be left in your body.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol will damage your heart.
  • Stress. High levels of stress can bring about temporary increase in blood pressure.
  • Certain chronic conditions. Kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea.

Pregnancy sometimes also leads to high blood pressure.

Moreover, problems with the kidneys or heart and poor lifestyle habits contribute to high blood pressure occurring in children.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing hypertension is as simple as taking a blood pressure reading. If the result shows your blood pressure is elevated, more readings over the course of a few days or weeks may be necessary because other factors may influence your pressure, such as environment. What’s more, blood pressure levels change throughout the day as well. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor needs to see evidence of a sustained problem.

Treatment

Having a lifelong heart-healthy lifestyle can help you control your blood pressure effectively throughout your life. It involves:

  • Heart-healthy eating
  • Being physically active
  • Aiming for a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing stress
  • Limiting alcohol

If your condition doesn’t improve with the lifestyle changes above, your doctor may prescribe some types of medicines, including:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors: Uses & Side Effects

  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Calcium channel blockers

Calcium Channel Blockers – Uses & Side Effects

  • Diuretics (water or fluid pills)

Keyword: high blood pressure.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.