Hypertension and its causes

Hypertension and its causes.

Overview

High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.

Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.

You can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues and can be detected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.

High blood pressure generally develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.

Causes

There are two types of high blood pressure.

Primary (essential) hypertension

For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure, called primary (essential) hypertension, tends to develop gradually over many years.

Secondary hypertension

Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure, called secondary hypertension, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Certain defects you’re born with (congenital) in blood vessels
  • Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines

Risk factors

A number of factors increase the risk of hypertension.

  • Age: Hypertension is more common in people who are more than 60 years of age. Blood pressure can increase steadily with age as the arteries stiffen and narrow due to plaque buildup.
  • Ethnicity: Some ethnic groups are more prone to hypertension than others. African Americans have a higher risk than other ethnic groups, for example. · Size and weight: Being overweight or obese is a primary risk factor.
  • Alcohol and tobacco use: Regularly consuming large quantities of alcohol or tobacco can increase blood pressure.
  • Sex: According to a 2018 review, males have a higher risk of developing hypertension than females. However, this is only until after women reach menopause.
  • Existing health conditions: Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and high cholesterol levels can lead to hypertension, especially as people age.

Other risk factors include:

  • sedentary lifestyle
  • salt rich, high fat diet
  • low potassium intake

Poorly managed stress and a family history of high blood pressure can also contribute to the risk of developing hypertension.

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What is Hypertension: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) as it is pumped by the heart. The higher the pressure, the harder the heart has to pump. 

Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people ­– having the condition. The burden of hypertension is felt disproportionately in low- and middle-income countries, where two thirds of cases are found, largely due to increased risk factors in those populations in recent decades. 

Symptoms

Many people with hypertension do not notice symptoms and may be unaware there is a problem. Symptoms can include early morning headaches, nosebleeds, irregular heart rhythms, vision changes, and buzzing in the ears. More severe forms may exhibit fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors. If left untreated, hypertension can cause persistent chest pain (also called angina), heart attacks, heart failure, and an irregular heartbeat, which can lead to a sudden death.  

Hypertension can also cause strokes by blocking or bursting arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain, as well as kidney damage, which can lead to kidney failure. High blood pressure causes damage to the heart by hardening arteries and decreasing the flood of blood and oxygen to the heart. 

Detecting hypertension is done with a quick and painless test of blood pressure. This can be done at home, but a health professional can help assess any risks or associated conditions.

Prevention and Treatment

Reducing modifiable risk factors is the best way to prevent hypertension and associated diseases of the heart, brain, kidney and other organs. These factors include unhealthy diets (excessive salt consumption, a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats, low intake of fruits and vegetables), physical inactivity, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, and being overweight or obese.  

There are also non-modifiable risk factors, including a family history of hypertension, age over 65 years and co-existing diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease. Avoiding dietary and behavioural risk factors is doubly important for those with unmodifiable or hereditary risk factors.  

Hypertension can be managed by reducing and managing mental stress, regularly checking blood pressure and consulting with health professionals, treating high blood pressure and managing other medical conditions. Cessation of tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol, as well as improvements in diet and exercise, can help reduce symptoms and risk factors from hypertension. 

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