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What Is the Main Cause of Hypertension?

Reviewed on 10/16/2020

What Is Hypertension?

Hypertension or high blood pressure can be caused by poor habits like smoking, drinking and eating too much junk food, as well as stress and some medications.
Hypertension or high blood pressure can be caused by poor habits like smoking, drinking and eating too much junk food, as well as stress and some medications.

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure, which describes 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 extended beyond their normal limit, which can lead to damage and scarring and put people at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease

Blood pressure 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

High, elevated, and normal blood pressure is usually defined in the following ranges: 

What Are Symptoms of Hypertension?

Hypertension is often called “the silent killer” because it’s common for people who have it to have no symptoms. A healthcare professional can measure your blood pressure to know for sure if you have hypertension.

Uncommonly, severe hypertension can cause or be accompanied by symptoms including: 

What Causes Hypertension?

Risk factors for developing hypertension include:

  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Age 
  • Gender 
    • Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure than women up to age 64
    • Beginning at age 65, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure than men
  • African-Americans in the U.S. tend to develop high blood pressure more often than other races 

Risk factors for developing hypertension that can be managed or prevented include:

SLIDESHOW

How to Lower Blood Pressure: Exercise Tips See Slideshow

How Is Hypertension Diagnosed?

Blood pressure is measured with a pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer) placed around the upper arm and manually or electronically inflated. When inflated, the cuff compresses the brachial artery, the major blood vessel of the upper arm, stopping blood flow briefly. Then the air in the cuff is released slowly while the person performing the measurement listens with a stethoscope or monitors an electronic readout.

Adults 20 years of age and older should have their blood pressure checked during regular doctor visits.

What Is the Treatment for Hypertension?

Lifestyle changes are typically the first line treatment for hypertension, such as: 

  • Eating a balanced diet that low in salt
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing stress
  • Not smoking
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Taking medications as directed

When medications are needed to treat hypertension, they may include: 

What Are Complications of Hypertension?

Complications of untreated or uncontrolled hypertension include:

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Reviewed on 10/16/2020
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