What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is a condition in which the long-term force of the blood against a person’s artery walls is high enough to potentially cause health problems like heart disease. Hypertension typically develops over a number of years and affects almost everyone to one degree or another.
High blood pressure can be present in a person for years without evidence of symptoms. Heart attack and stroke can occur suddenly in the absence of getting a routine checkup and self-monitoring. In spite of its dangers, hypertension can be easily detected and controlled with a doctor’s guidance.
What Causes Hypertension?
Primary hypertension has no identifiable cause and tends to develop gradually over many years. Secondary hypertension is caused by some underlying condition and usually appears suddenly. Some of those underlying conditions can include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Thyroid problems
- Kidney problems
- Medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants, cold remedies, birth control pills and some prescription drugs
- Congenital defects in blood vessels
- Illegal drugs such as cocaine
- Chronic alcohol use
Is Anyone More Likely to Have Hypertension?
Though none of the following mean a person is certain to be affected by hypertension, the following are risk factors to be aware of:
- Age High blood pressure is more common among men 45 and older. In women, it is most common after the age of 65.
- Race Blacks are more prone to hypertension and at an earlier age than whites. Related complications such as kidney failure, stroke and heart attacks are also more common among African Americans.
- Family history
- Lack of physical activity
- Tobacco Chewing or smoking tobacco immediately raises blood pressure temporarily. The long-term effect of tobacco use is damage to the lining of artery walls.
- Sodium Too much salt in a person’s diet often causes their body to retain fluid, which, in turn, raises blood pressure.
- Potassium A shortage of potassium may cause the accumulation of too much sodium in the blood.
- Vitamin D deficiency Vitamin D can affect the enzyme produced by your kidneys that regulates blood pressure.
- Drinking too much alcohol