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What is Hypertension?

Did you know that two out of three people over age 75 have hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is defined as a condition in which the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as it flows through them is too high.

Blood pressure is established by the amount of blood that the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. In short, the more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher the person’s blood pressure.

Although people with high blood pressure don’t commonly experience any signs or symptoms, hypertension is easily detected through regular health checkups and can be treated under a doctor’s care.

There are three types of hypertension:

Malignant hypertension – Classified as extremely high blood pressure, malignant hypertension develops rapidly and causes some type of organ damage. A person with malignant hypertension has a blood pressure reading greater than 180/120 (“normal” blood pressure is below 140/90). This type of hypertension should be treated as a medical emergency.  In many cases, this type of hypertension can be caused by missing doses of blood pressure medication.

Secondary hypertension – This type of hypertension is triggered by another disease. If this is the case, the person’s blood pressure will most likely return to normal, or will significantly decrease in time. The causes of secondary hypertension include but are not limited to the following conditions:

  • Pregnancy
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Tumors or other diseases of the adrenal gland
  • Thyroid dysfunction

Renal hypertension – In this type of hypertension, blood pressure is due to narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to the kidney. This condition can often be controlled by blood pressure drugs, while other patients may require angioplasty, stenting, or surgery on the blood vessels of the kidney.

Blood pressure tends to rise as a person ages. However, following a healthy lifestyle can help to delay or even prevent this increase.

If you or your loved has high blood pressure, there are steps to take in order to control or reduce the risk of related health problems.

Check back next week to learn about the common treatment options for hypertension.

Sources:

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=18397

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/definition/con-20019580

http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertension-symptoms-types

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St. Barnabas Health System
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