Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which too much force is placed on the walls of the arteries when pumping blood to the heart. The exact cause of hypertension isn’t known, however, numerous factors are recognized as playing a key role. These include:
People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop coronary artery disease (CAD) because high blood pressure places additional force against the artery walls. Over time, this extra pressure can damage the arteries, and injured arteries are more susceptible to becoming narrowed and hardened by fatty deposits. Damaged arteries cannot deliver enough oxygen to other parts of the body. For this reason, high blood pressure can harm the brain and kidneys. High blood pressure also increases the risk for stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and even blindness.
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, which is why it is often referred to as “the silent killer." People can have high blood pressure causing damage to the heart and kidneys, without even knowing it.
When caught in its earliest stage, high blood pressure may be remedied with lifestyle changes, such as: a healthy, low salt diet, exercise, losing weight, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking. If these adjustments don’t sufficiently lower blood pressure, medication is the next step. In addition, reducing weight around the waist is key. Excessive weight around the waist greatly increases the risk for high blood pressure. Generally, men are at increased risk if their waist circumference is over 40 inches; for women the number is over 35 inches.
The best way to prevent high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure monitored on a regular basis. Healthy adults should have their blood pressure measured at each doctor visit, but at least every two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, anyone already diagnosed with heart disease or other risk factors for heart disease should be monitored more frequently.