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Hypertension

Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the arteries have persistently elevated blood pressure. Every time the human heart beats, it pumps blood to the whole body through the arteries.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing up against the blood vessel walls. The higher the pressure the harder the heart has to pump. Hypertension can lead to damaged organs, as well as several illnesses, such as renal failure (kidney failure), aneurysm, heart failure, stroke, or heart attack. Researchers from UC Davis reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology that high blood pressure during middle age may raise the risk of cognitive decline later in life.

The normal level for blood pressure is below 120/80, where 120 represents the systolic measurement (peak pressure in the arteries) and 80 represents the diastolic measurement (minimum pressure in the arteries).

Blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is called prehypertension (to denote increased risk of hypertension), and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered hypertension.

Hypertension may be classified as essential or secondary.

Essential hypertension is the term for high blood pressure with unknown cause. It accounts for about 95% of cases. Secondary hypertension is the term for high blood pressure with a known direct cause, such as kidney disease, tumors, or birth control pills.

Though the exact causes of hypertension are usually unknown, there are several factors that have been highly associated with the condition. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of physical activity
  • High levels of salt intake (sodium sensitivity).,
  • Insufficient calcium, potassium, and magnesium consumption
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • High levels of alcohol consumption
  • Stress
  • Aging
  • Medicines such as birth control pills
  • Genetics and a family history of hypertension - In May 2011, scientists from the University of Leicester, England, reported in the journal Hypertension that some genes in the kidneys may contribute to hypertension.
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid problems or tumors

Statistics  indicate that African Americans have a higher incidence of hypertension than other ethnicities.

There is no guarantee that a person with hypertension will present any symptoms of the condition. About 33% of people actually do not know that they have high blood pressure, and this ignorance can last for years. For this reason, it is advisable to undergo periodic blood pressure screenings even when no symptoms are present