What is Hypertension
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition in which the pressure of your blood flow against your artery walls over time is high enough to cause health problems such as heart disease. High blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood flow as well as the resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The resistance to blood flow will be higher if your arteries are narrow.
There are two numbers used in measuring blood pressure: the systolic pressure (top number) and diastolic pressure (bottom number). The systolic pressure measures pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The diastolic pressure measures the pressure in your arteries between beats.
Many people are not aware they have hypertension as the symptoms are very mild and often unnoticeable. If your doctor detects hypertension at a regular checkup, they may recommend you get more frequent screenings to monitor the situation.
Some people may have hypertension due to an underlying condition. These can include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- 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 for hypertension include:
- Age – up to 64 for men and after 65 for women.
- Race – people of African heritage are more likely to develop hypertension
- Family history
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Tobacco use
- A diet high in salt
- A diet low in potassium
- Alcohol misuse
- Certain chronic conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea
- Pregnancy can cause high blood pressure
Complications from uncontrolled hypertension can include:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Heart failure
- Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys
- Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Trouble with memory or understanding