High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension)

High Blood Pressure Summary
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a repeatedly elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90 mmHg -- a systolic pressure above 140 with a diastolic pressure above 90. There are two causes of high blood pressure, primary and secondary. Primary high blood pressure is much more common that secondary and its basic causes or underlying defects are not always known. It is known that a diet high in salt increases the risk for high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol. Genetic factors are also a primary cause. Secondary high blood pressure is generally caused by another condition such as renal hypertension, tumors, and other conditions. Treatment for high blood pressure is generally lifestyle changes and if necessary, diet.
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High blood pressure facts

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is designated as either essential (primary) hypertension or secondary hypertension and is defined as a consistently elevated blood pressure exceeding 140/90 mm Hg.
  • High blood pressure is called "the silent killer" because it often causes no symptoms for many years, even decades, until it finally damages certain critical organs.
  • Poorly controlled high blood pressure ultimately can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye, thickening of the heart muscle and heart attacks, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), kidney failure, and strokes.
  • Most antihypertensive medications can be used alone or in combination. Some are used only in combination. Some are preferred over others in certain specific medical situations. And some are not to be used (contraindicated) in other situations.
  • Several classes of antihypertensive medications are available, including ACE inhibitors, ARB drugs, beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, and peripheral vasodilators.
  • The goal of therapy for hypertension is to bring the blood pressure down below 140/85 in the general population and to even lower levels in diabetics, African Americans, and people with certain chronic kidney diseases.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) in pregnancy can lead to preeclampsia or eclampsia (toxemia of pregnancy). Pregnant women should be monitored closely by their obstetrician for complications of high blood pressure.
  • Lifestyle adjustments in diet and exercise and compliance with medication regimes are important factors in determining the outcome for people with hypertension.
  • High salt intake, obesity, lack of regular exercise, excessive alcohol or coffee intake, and smoking may all adversely affect the outlook for the health of an individual with high blood pressure.

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High Blood Pressure Symptoms

Most commonly high blood pressure causes no symptoms at all. This means that people with high blood pressure can be having damage occur to their heart, kidneys, eyes, and circulation without feeling badly! It is very important, therefore, to have blood pressure testing as part of the routine physical examination. However, in people with uncomplicated high blood pressure, they may experience headache, blurred vision, dizziness, and shortness of breath.


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