Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a condition in which the force of blood pumping through the arteries is consistently too high. When this occurs, the walls of the arteries are expanded beyond their normal limit, which can lead to damage and scarring, and put people at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.
A person’s blood pressure is taken using a device called a blood pressure monitor. The blood pressure reading is expressed in two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure (the first/top number): Measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second/bottom number): Measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest between beats
Normal blood pressure is a reading of less than 120/80 mmHg.
The 4 stages of hypertension are:
What Are Symptoms of Hypertension?
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is often called “the silent killer” because often people have no symptoms. A healthcare professional can measure blood pressure to know for sure if you have high blood pressure.
Rarely, severe hypertension can cause or be accompanied by symptoms such as:
What Causes Hypertension?
Risk factors for developing hypertension (high blood pressure) include:
- Family history
- African-Americans in the U.S. tend to develop high blood pressure more often than other races
- Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure than women up to age 64
- Starting at age 65, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure than men
Risk factors for developing hypertension that can be managed or prevented include:
What Is the Treatment for High Blood Pressure?
Lifestyle changes are usually the first line treatment for hypertension (high blood pressure), including:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Reducing salt intake
- Regular exercise
- Staying a healthy weight
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol
- Not smoking
- Stress management
- Getting adequate sleep
- Taking medications as directed
When medications are needed to treat hypertension, they may include:
- ACE inhibitors
- Peripherally acting alpha-adrenergic blockers
- Centrally-acting alpha adrenergics
- Angiotensin II antagonists (ARBs)
- Calcium channel blockers
- Diuretics (“water pills”)
- Renin inhibitors
- Combination medicines, made up of two or more different kinds of blood pressure medicines
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