Hypertension and Its Causes
Blood pressure is the force your heart utilizes as it pumps blood through the body or the force of blood as it moves through your blood vessels.
Ideally, your blood pressure changes as you go through the different activities of your day.
However, high blood pressure (otherwise called hypertension) is a medical condition where the force of blood against your arteries is consistently higher than normal.
According to the CDC, normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg (or 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury).
The first figure (120 mmHg) is called systolic blood pressure. Your systolic reading is the pressure in your arteries as your heart beats and pumps blood around your body.
The second number (80 mmHg) is diastolic blood pressure. It refers to your arteries’ pressure while your heart rests and fills up with blood between beats.
As such, 120 systolic and 80 diastolic reads as 120/80 mmHg. Hypertension is a blood pressure reading above this normal range.
The American College of Cardiology divides blood pressure into four levels:
- Normal Blood Pressure: Lower than 120/80 mmHg.
- Elevated Blood Pressure: A systolic reading of 120-129 mmHg and a diastolic reading lower than 80 mmHg.
- Stage 1 Hypertension: A systolic reading of 130-139 mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 80-89 mmHg.
- Stage 2 Hypertension: at least 140 mmHg systolic pressure and at least 90 mmHg diastolic pressure.
- Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic blood pressure above 180 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure above 120 mmHg.
What Are the Causes of Hypertension?
It’s often challenging to pinpoint a specific cause of hypertension. Patients who suffer from the condition typically develop it due to specific lifestyle choices or underlying health conditions.
Doctors refer to hypertension not caused by already-existing health conditions as essential or primary hypertension.
On the other hand, hypertension caused by underlying health problems is secondary hypertension.
Primary high blood pressure often results from the following factors:
- Excessive salt intake
- Limited vegetable/fruit intake
- Lack of physical exercise
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Insulin resistance
- Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep
Age-related factors can also lead to primary high blood pressure. For instance, individuals above 65 are often prone to hypertension.
Other non-health-related causative factors include ethnicity (African Americans typically have high risks of hypertension) and sex (men also suffer from high blood pressure more than women).
In contrast, secondary hypertension occurs as a result of the following health conditions:
- Pheochromocytoma (a cancer of the adrenal gland)
- Kidney disease
- Kidney infections
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland)
Pregnant women can also be at risk of secondary high blood pressure.
Aside from these medical conditions, specific medications can lead to hypertension, such as:
- The combined oral contraceptive pill
- Herbal remedies containing licorice
- Amphetamines and cocaine
- Ibuprofen, naproxen, and some other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Venlafaxine and some selective serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors
High blood pressure caused by medication typically returns to normal once the victim stops using the drug.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Most individuals suffering from high blood pressure don’t experience symptoms.
With little or no symptoms to help detect the disease, victims eventually suffer organ damage as the condition lingers without treatment.
As such, we’d strongly recommend checking your blood pressure regularly to know if you’re at risk of hypertension.
That said, in instances where high blood pressure displays symptoms, victims may experience:
- Sleeping difficulties
- Shortness of breath
In many instances, these symptoms only appear when the condition has become severe.
Patients suffering from the hypertensive crisis may also experience nosebleeds and headaches.
Complications From High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can lead to severe health-related complications over time.
The extreme pressure on your blood vessels can result in organ and blood vessel damage.
Other complications hypertensive patients may experience include:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Cognitive difficulties
- Metabolic syndrome
- Vision loss
What to Do If You Have High Blood Pressure
You should consult your doctor immediately if you suspect you have high blood pressure or have received a diagnosis of hypertension.
Your doctor will recommend medications or lifestyle changes you need to make to treat or manage the situation.
If your high blood pressure is lifestyle-related, you may need to:
- Start getting regular exercise
- Quit alcohol intake and smoking
- Manage stress and anxiety
- Maintain a healthy diet
Contact your healthcare provider today for a checkup and consultations if you have any fears regarding your blood pressure.