Hypertension is defined as elevated blood pressure in the arteries. It is a major cause of kidney failure in the United States. As a person's heart muscle contracts, it pushes blood into the major arteries. It is the pressure within the arteries that is measured in blood pressure readings. The first value of this measurement is called the systolic pressure, which is usually 100 to 130 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) . The second value, the diastolic pressure, is normally between 70 and 80 mmHg. A normal blood pressure might be expressed as 110/70 (110 over 70). Generally, a systolic pressure higher than 140 and a diastolic pressure higher than 90 is used to define hypertension in adults. In some individuals, an underlying cause such as blockage of the blood flowing to the kidney or a tumor in the adrenal gland or hormone imbalance may be responsible for the blood pressure problem. This can be further evaluated and treated by a nephrologist.
The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment
High blood pressure often has no physical symptoms. It is dangerous and can actually do damage to the body's organs (the heart, the brain, the kidneys) before it is diagnosed. Hypertension can lead silently, but directly, to heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease - sometimes requiring dialysis and sometimes transplantation. Patients are considered high risk if they have blood pressures near the top of the normal range, or have a family history of high blood pressure.
The Causes of Hypertension:
In 90 to 95 percent of the cases of hypertension, the cause is unknown. It cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Certain factors increase the risk and can't be controlled. For example: Heredity - Hypertension occurs in families. Race - African Americans are more prone to develop hypertension than other ethnic groups. Age - We are more susceptible as we get older. Other factors can be controlled. These include: Being overweight - Exceeding recognized height and weight standards. Sleep Apnea - Patients with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing hypertension. Eating Too Much Salt - Leads to high blood pressure in some people. Alcohol - Heavy and regular use. Lack of Exercise - Can lead to obesity. Stress - Responses vary from person to person.
How to Control Your Hypertension:
Once hypertension is defined in a patient, treatment is most usually a lifelong process. Treatment includes lifestyle changes, such as modification of the patient's diet, a regular exercise program, and conscientious weight control. For those with mild hypertension, it is sufficient to attain an ideal weight for height, control sodium intake (salt), and have good exercise habits. If medication is required, it is still important to follow a specified diet in order to control the body weight and salt intake. Other important factors which are in the control of the patient, not the treating physician, are limiting fat and cholesterol intake, avoiding cigarettes, and getting enough rest. Blood pressure can be affected by exertion, excitement, or some psychological factors.
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