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What Is Hypertension?

High Blood Pressure (or Hypertension) is a condition in which the blood pressure in your artery walls is too high. The greater the force, the higher your blood pressure. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to life-threatening diseases including coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.

It’s important to know that anyone can develop high blood pressure. In fact, hypertension is the most common cardiovascular disease. It can affect children and teens, and in the U.S. alone around 30% of adults have high blood pressure. Many cases go unnoticed due to a lack of symptoms or warning signs.

What Are The Causes Of High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension can have many causes. Some of the most commons risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Alcoholism
  • Smoking
  • A family history of hypertension
  • Older age
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • Sleep apnea

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure?

  • Fatigue or confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears
  • Severe headache

What Are The Risk Factors Of Hypertension?

Factors YOU CANNOT control include:

  • Your age. The risk of high blood pressure increases with age.
  • Your race/ethnicity. Certain ethnic groups, such as African-Americans, have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure at an earlier age.
  • Your family history. High blood pressure can be hereditary. Know your family history and take preventative measures early on if you are at risk.

What If I Have Elevated Blood Pressure?

Many people may fall into the elevated blood pressure category based on their systolic (120–129) and diastolic less than 80 mmHg blood pressures. Elevated blood pressure by itself is not an emergency. It just means that you are at risk for hypertension in the future.

Starting from a reading of 115/75, the risk of heart attack and stroke doubles for every 20-point jump in systolic blood pressure or every 10-point jump in diastolic blood pressure for adults between the ages of 40–70.

How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?

In order to determine if you have high blood pressure, you need to understand two numbers: your systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure. Systolic pressure is a measure of the force on your blood vessels, whereas diastolic pressure is a measure of the pressure in your arteries.

Normal blood pressure: < 120/80

Elevated blood pressure: 120–129/<80

Stage 1 hypertension : 130-139/80-89

Stage 2 hypertension: ≥ 140/90

What Are The Possible Treatments For Hypertension?

Talk with your doctor about any medication you are currently taking, and the risk of increased blood pressure associated with each. Lifestyle changes can also help. Alcohol consumption, a high sodium diet, lack of physical activity, obesity, and smoking can increase your risk of heart disease. You may also need to treat other health problems, which increase risk of hypertension. These include Chronic Kidney Disease, Adrenal disorders, and Thyroid disorders. High stress levels can also increase your risk.

Are There Preventative Steps Or Measures To Avoid High Blood Pressure?

If you have hypertension or elevated blood pressure, there are many steps you can take to control and prevent high blood pressure. The key to reducing high blood pressure or hypertension is knowing your risk factors and what you can or cannot control.

Factors YOU CAN control include:

  • Your medication. Talk with your doctor about any medication you are currently taking, and the risk of increased blood pressure associated with each.
  • Your habits. Alcohol consumption, high sodium, and low potassium diet, lack of physical activity, obesity and smoking can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Your health. Certain health problems may increase blood pressure, such as Chronic Kidney Disease, Adrenal, and Thyroid disorders. High-stress levels can also increase your risk.

What Are The Risks If High Blood Pressure Is Left Untreated?

Untreated hypertension can lead to a condition called malignant hypertension, which can harden the arteries and lead to complications such as aneurysms, hemorrhagic stroke, and heart attacks in the most severe cases.

Are There Other Related Conditions?

Increased sodium intake can lead to increased blood pressure. However, it is not pathologic and can be reversed if intake ceases. Increased weight is one of the most important causes of hypertension. One of the best ways of preventing and treating hypertension is maintaining ideal body weight .

Meet Manhattan Cardiology

Amnon (Ami) Beniaminovitz, MD, FACC, FASE, CBNC, RPVI is a multi board-certified cardiologist, with a special focus on cardiovascular diseases, imaging, and nuclear cardiology. His credentials include board certifications in Nuclear Cardiology by the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC), Echocardiography and Stress Echocardiography by... Learn More »