There are two different types of hypertension and the causes are unique to each. Primary or essential hypertension does not always have an apparent cause. For most adults who have this type of hypertension, the high blood pressure developed gradually over a period of many years and so its exact cause is difficult to pinpoint. For secondary hypertension, there is an underlying condition at play that causes the high blood pressure. Some examples of conditions and medications capable of leading to hypertension include: kidney problems, blood vessel defects, adrenal gland tumors, illegal drugs and some medications such as birth control pills and decongestants.
High blood pressure or hypertension can be present for many years before symptoms ever avail themselves. When high blood pressure is uncontrolled however, it increases the risk of many serious health problems. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, weakened blood vessels, narrowed blood vessels, metabolic syndrome and other very serious, potentially life-threatening conditions. Other non-life-threatening complications include: kidney damage and kidney disease, vision loss through narrowing of the blood vessels in the eyes and difficulty with memory and understanding.
Some of the symptoms associated with high blood pressure include: dizzy spells, headaches and nosebleeds more often than normal. For many people these symptoms do not appear until the hypertension has become more serious. What this means is that the most likely place to find out about a hypertension diagnosis is during a regular physician examination. It is normal to have a blood pressure check during any routine examination. If the blood pressure numbers are high, more testing will be required to determine if it is a one-time thing or a more serious problem.
Blood pressure is checked using an inflatable arm cuff that measures pressure. There are two numbers in the blood pressure reading, the systolic pressure number and the diastolic pressure reading. Systolic measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and the diastolic pressure, the pressure between heart beats. A normal blood pressure reading should be below 120/80 mm Hg, but some doctors recommend an even lower reading. Hypertension is described as being anything above 140 mm Hg, but anything about 160 mm Hg systolic or 100 mm Hg or higher diastolic is considered to be serious hypertension.
Treatment for hypertension begins with setting a blood pressure goal then prescribing treatment options to get there. Medications used to treat high blood pressure include: beta blockers, Thiazide diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors), Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers and renin inhibitors. Physicians may also prescribe alpha blockers, alpha-beta blockers, vasodilators and central acting agents. In addition to medication treatments, lifestyle changes will also aid in lowering blood pressure levels. These may include losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking and lowering salt intake.