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Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

Hypertension (or high blood pressure) affects over 50 million Americans. Hypertension can lead to a heart attack, congestive heart failure, blood vessel damage, kidney damage, stroke, and loss of vision.

Blood pressure measurement (or BP as it is commonly known) is a reflection of the systolic and diastolic pressures in your arteries. For most adults, normal BP is considered to be in the range between 120/80 and 130/85. BP less than 120/80 can also be normal.

  • The systolic pressure (the higher and 1st number) measures the force the blood exerts on the artery walls as the heart contracts to pump the blood out.
  • The diastolic pressure (the lower and 2nd number) measures the force of the blood on the artery walls as the heart relaxes to allow blood to flow into the heart.

Hypertension is a BP over 140/90. There are basically two types of hypertension:

  • Essential hypertension (also known as primary or benign hypertension) is not related to a specific cause. This is the most common type of hypertension affecting 95% of individuals with hypertension.
  • Hypertension is diagnosed as secondary hypertension when the cause for hypertension can be identified and is secondary to another disease or disorder. This type of hypertension has a more rapid onset and causes higher BP than essential hypertension. This type may result from a variety of diseases including kidney disease, pregnancy, street drugs, or cirrhosis of the liver. Other disease conditions can also cause hypertension.

Often there are no signs or symptoms of hypertension and you may not know you have it. Signs and symptoms of hypertension may include complaints of:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Visual changes
  • Occasionally nausea and vomiting.

Adhering to a healthy lifestyle to include the following can prevent hypertension:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat a healthy well balanced diet
  • Avoid excessive salt intake
  • Maintain a normal weight,
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Reduce and/or manage stress.

Being aware of your own health status, personal life style, and risk factors for hypertension is vital so you can avoid becoming one of the 50 million Americans with this disease. Be proactive and take charge of your health and well-being. Have your blood pressure checked regularly and always ask about your BP readings every time your BP is taken.

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