Hypertension – the silent killer.

Hypertension in simple terms means high blood pressure. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood pumped by your heart and by the size and stretch-ability of your blood vessels. When we are young and healthy our blood vessels stretch and contract easily based on how much blood is pumping through them. But as we get older our blood vessels lose the ability to stretch due to genetics, diseases, obesity, bad diets, constant stress and a lack of exercise.

Doctors consider hypertension to be a systolic blood pressure of 140 or greater (top number) and/or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 or greater (bottom number). This should be noted on more than one occasion before your doctor puts you on medications. Pre-hypertension is a systolic pressure between 120 and 139 and/or a diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 89 on multiple readings. This is a good indication that you will develop hypertension and for this your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes.

Primary hypertension or essential hypertension has no known cause and may be related to genetics, the enviroment, hormones or how much salt you have in your diet. Chances are if your close family members have hypertension you will also develop hypertenstion, unless you make the changes needed to prevent it.

Secondary hypertension is hypertension caused by another condition or disease. This could be thngs like kidney disease, oral birth control, hormones or pregnancy (gestational hypertension), or from medications needed to treat other illnesses. Treating the condition often helps to decrese the blood pressure. Gestational hypertension, caused by pregnany, must be monitored closely for both the mother and fetus's safety. Most often the blood pressure returns to normal after the delivery.

So, why should you be concerned about your blood pressure? Hypertension is a silent killer because most people don't have any symptoms until they are in a crisis. Often a person only experiences a mild headache. Getting diagnosed and keeping your blood pressure controlled can help prevent a crisis. Complications of hypertension include: heart attacks, congestive heart failure, damage to blood vessels, kidney damage/failure, stroke/brain damage, and loss of vision. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to malignant hypertension in some people. This is an extremely high blood pressure causing swelling of the nerve behind the eye (the optic nerve). This is considered a medical emergency. Many of your vital organs are in serious risk of injury including your brain, eyes, blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. The blood vessels of the kidney are the most susceptible to injury and damage may be permanent.

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