Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) - Symptoms & Causes

What is hypertension?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition in which the amount of force exerted by your blood on your artery walls is higher than normal.

Over time, hypertension can lead to atherosclerosis (build-up of fatty deposits in the artery walls), which can cause serious complications such as heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms.

In the long term, it can damage various organs and lead to the following:

What causes hypertension?

Your blood pressure varies throughout the day depending on your activity. For example, if you are exercising, feeling stressed or in pain, your blood pressure will increase temporarily for the duration of the condition. In these instances, you do not need any medical attention.

High blood pressure becomes a concern if your blood pressure is constantly raised.

In 95% of patients, the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. This type of high blood pressure tends to develop gradually over the years.

In 5% of cases, you may have high blood pressure due to an underlying condition. These conditions include kidney disease, atherosclerosis (build-up of fatty deposits in the artery walls) and hormonal imbalance.

What are the risk factors for hypertension?

There are several risk factors that may increase your chances of developing hypertension, including:

  • Diabetes. This chronic condition may increase your risk of hypertension. It causes blood sugar to rise. A fasting blood glucose or sugar level of 126mg/dL or higher is dangerous.
  • Obesity. Being overweight or obese requires more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the amount of blood circulating through your blood vessels rises, the pressure on your artery walls increases.
  • A strong family history of hypertension. If you have parents or relatives with high blood pressure, there is a chance you may inherit it.

Left untreated, high blood pressure may lead to other health problems, including:

  • Heart disease (coronary heart disease). Hypertension can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries. This may lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.
  • Heart failure. The heart needs to work harder to pump blood against the higher pressure in your vessels. This results in the walls of the heart's pumping chamber thickening, as they have a hard time pumping enough blood to meet your body's needs.
  • Peripheral artery disease. This is a condition where narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. When this is developed, your extremities do not receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand, which can cause leg pain when walking.
  • Renal failure. When your kidneys are not able to filter waste products from your blood, it may accumulate dangerous levels of wastes. Your blood's chemical composition may get out of balance.
  • Stroke. When the blood supply to part of your brain is reduced or interrupted, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients, a stroke occurs.

How do you prevent hypertension?

You can prevent hypertension by doing the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and eating healthy foods
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Include foods rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Manage and reduce stress
  • Talk to your doctor always before taking a dietary supplement or alternative herbal treatment
This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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