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Diseases & Conditions

High blood pressure

High blood pressureCausesDiagnosisMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is High blood pressure?

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common affliction today, where in the blood pressure in the arteries are higher than normal for a given age.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure generally tends to increase with age. However, the cause of primary hypertension, that is the most prevalent type today, has been attributed to sedentary lifestyle, with stress and lack of exercise. Smoking has also been identified as a contributing factor. Obesity and consumption of alcohol are other factors that contribute.

Secondary problems like kidney diseases, dysfunctional hormone regulation often cause high blood pressure.

During pregnancy the blood pressure is higher in woman. Taking birth control bills also increases blood pressure. Hence women who already have high blood pressure should consult their doctors before taking birth control pills. Women undergoing hormone therapy can also have elevated blood pressures.

Diagnosis of High Blood Pressure

Diagnosis of high blood pressure is made by taking at least three separate readings of the blood pressure. If it is has been established that the blood pressure is consistently high, and then other tests are done to determine the cause. For instance in younger people, a creatinine or renal function test is done to determine if any kidney disease is present.

Since high blood pressure can cause damage to various organs of the body, the heart and other organs are checked to see if the strain has caused any damage. In addition to that, a life style chart is drawn up and medical history along with family history is evaluated, to determine the causes.

Medications for High Blood Pressure

The classes of medications that are generally used are

  • ACE inhibitors (e.g., captopril)
  • Alpha blockers (e.g., prazosin)
  • Angiotensin II receptor antagonists (e.g., losartan)
  • Beta blockers (e.g., propranolol)
  • Calcium channel blockers (e.g., verapamil)
  • Diuretics (e.g. hydrochlorothiazide)
  • Direct renin inhibitors (e.g., aliskiren)

Prevention of High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is often caused due to stress and sedentary lifestyle. By modifying this, it is possible to prevent the onset. It is known to increase the risk of heart diseases several fold, which in turn can be fatal. Elevated blood pressures itself can cause direct damage to the heart, the eyes, kidneys and other organs.

Risk factors of High Blood Pressure

Risk factors that have been identified are –

  • Bad lifestyle habits like smoking
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Older age
  • Family history
  • Lack of potassium in diet
  • Excessive consumption of sodium, mostly through salt and spices.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

The symptoms of high blood pressure are -

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • In children in can cause seizures and difficulty breathing and sometime nosebleeds

Hypertension often remains undetected as it does not show any symptoms or signs. During this time, extensive damage to blood vessels can take place. Therefore it is essential to keep a tab on it despite lack of any evident problems.

Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Treatment for high blood pressure often starts with lifestyle modifications. Diet is the first thing that is changed. A low sodium and high potassium diet is suggested. Alcohol consumption should be reduced and smoking is advised against.

If lifestyle changes do not bring about the require drop in blood pressure, antihypertensive drugs are prescribed. There are several classes of these drugs.

Treatment is often a combination of both medication and lifestyle changes. Activities that tend to reduce stress like meditation and relaxation are practiced, in order to reduce hypertension.

Types of High Blood Pressure

There are two types of high blood pressure. These are

  • Primary – Primary hypertension does not have any identifiable cause. The blood pressure is elevated when measured and treatment for it is aimed at solely reducing it.
  • Secondary – Secondary hypertension is caused due to an underlying condition like renal problems, problems with the endocrine system. The treatment is directed towards underlying cause.