Hypertension is the scientific name for high blood pressure. Hypertension affects millions of people in the United States. Once thought to only effect older people, doctors are now diagnosing young children and teens with hypertension.
The rate at which blood pushes against artery walls is what determines a person’s blood pressure. High blood pressure is a symptom of heart disease because high blood pressure causes the arteries to work harder to move the blood throughout the body. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke and a primary cause of heart attacks. Hypertension can also cause kidney failure and eye problems if left untreated.
There are two types of hypertension. Essential hypertension is what doctors call hypertension that does not have a known cause. Secondary hypertension is what doctors call hypertension when they know the root cause of the condition.
Hypertension is particularly dangerous because it can be difficult to know if a person has high blood pressure, particularly if they do not have their blood pressure taken regularly.
Symptoms of high blood pressure normally present themselves only when the blood pressure level is extremely high. Symptoms of extremely high blood pressure include vision problems, severe headache, difficulty breathing, chest pain, blood in urine, fatigue and pounding in the head, neck or ears. Symptoms of extremely high blood pressure require immediate attention from a doctor as they could be signs of hypertensive crisis, which can lead to heart attack.
There are risk factors for essential hypertension. Risk factors for essential hypertension include age, race and family history. Essential hypertension also seems to have roots in lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise. Other risk factors are diabetes, obesity, stress, insufficient amounts of potassium, calcium and magnesium, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
People who have hypertension are also salt sensitive. This means that any intake of salt that is more than what the body needs daily is too much salt. Ingesting too much salt can raise the blood pressure of someone with salt sensitivity.
Secondary hypertension has several known causes. Kidney disease is the most common cause of secondary hypertension. Abnormalities or tumors can cause hypertension if the abnormalities or tumors cause the adrenal glands to secrete excess hormones that raise blood pressure. Birth control pills that contain estrogen and pregnancy can also cause secondary hypertension. In addition, any medication that might constrict blood vessels could cause hypertension.
The best way for a doctor to diagnose hypertension is through regular blood pressure checks. If there is a family history of hypertension then having a blood pressure monitor at home to do self-checks is important to monitor blood pressure levels.
If a doctor diagnoses a patient with hypertension additional tests may be necessary. The tests will help the doctor determine if there is any further damage to the heart or arteries from the hypertension.
Proper treatment of hypertension and its symptoms can greatly reduce the risk of developing further conditions due to the hypertension. The basic treatment for hypertension is usually lifestyle changes. Most patients suffering from hypertension are encouraged to quit smoking, start exercising and improve their overall diet. Reducing sodium intake and limiting alcohol consumption can make a significant difference in blood pressure levels.
There are also medications available to treat hypertension. Some doctors will begin a patient on diuretics. Diuretics can be very effective in treating hypertension. If the initial medications don’t work for a patient or if the patient has an adverse reaction or has other medical conditions, doctors can prescribe another medication. ACE inhibitors are another popular form of medication doctors use to treat hypertension in patients with diabetes.
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