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Jamaica Scientific Research Institute
Healing the world, one disorder at a time

HYPERTENSION

Hypertension simply means high blood pressure. High blood pressure typically develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. Fortunately, hypertension is easily detected and once you know you have it, you can control it.

 

Blood pressure is determined by two basic factors:

  • the amount of blood your heart pumps when it contracts
  • and the amount of resistance to this flow of the blood in the arteries, that is, vessels that take blood away from the heart.
If the heart pumps a high volume of blood into normal sized arteries, blood pressure will be high.

If the heart pumps the normal volume of blood into a narrow artery, blood pressure will be high.


The condition may be very dangerous where a high volume of blood is pumped into a narrow artery.

 

Blood pressure is measured when the heart beats while pumping blood (referred to as 'systolic' pressure) and when the heart is at rest in between beats (referred to as 'diastolic' pressure). Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg where the 120 refers to the systolic and the 80 the diastolic pressures.


Table courtesy of NIH


If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, hypertension is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher. High blood pressure numbers also differ for children and teens.

Blood pressure doesn't stay the same at all times. It lowers with sleep and rises upon waking. Blood pressure also rises when one gets excited, nervous, or active. If your numbers stay above normal most of the time, you're at risk for health problems and the risk grows as blood pressure numbers rise. "Prehypertension" means there is a tendency to develop high blood pressure, unless steps are taken to prevent it. If, upon treatment for high blood pressure, readings are consistently obtained in the normal range, then it means that the pressure is under control and not necessarily that the disease is gone. Note, however, that the complete mechanism governing the progression of the disease is not clear so that treatment now focuses on symptoms of the disease.

If you're being treated for HBP and have repeat readings in the normal range, your blood pressure is under control. However, you still have the condition.

Symptoms


Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. Hypertension can be present for years without one knowing it. During this time, the condition can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.

Although a few people with early-stage high blood pressure may have dull headaches, dizzy spells or a few more nosebleeds than normal, these signs and symptoms typically don't occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe — even life-threatening — stage.


Some people only learn that they have Hypertension after the damage has caused problems, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure.

Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, even when you're feeling fine.

Pathogenisis of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
When blood pressure stays high over time, it can damage the body. Hypertension can cause:

  • The heart to get larger or weaker, which may lead to heart failure
  • Aneurysms (bulges) to form in the walls of arteries. Common spots for aneurysms are the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the body (aortic); the arteries in the brain, legs, and intestines; and the artery leading to the spleen
  • Blood vessels in the kidneys to narrow leading to kidney failure
  • Arteries throughout the body to narrow in some places, limiting the flow of blood especially to the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or amputation of part of the leg
  • Blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed. This may lead to vision changes or blindness

Causes


There are two types of hypertension:

  • Primary (essential) hypertension - High blood pressure that tends to develop gradually over many years, with no identifiable cause.
  • Secondary hypertension - High blood pressure that is caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure tends to appear suddenly and is usually higher than primary hypertension, in terms of numbers. It may be caused by conditions including:
    • Kidney problems
    • Adrenal gland tumors
    • Certain congenital (birth) defects in blood vessels
    • Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
    • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
 

Risk factors for High Blood


  • Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases with age. Through early middle age, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after menopause.
  • Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke and heart attack, also are more common in blacks.
  • Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
  • Being overweight or obese. The heavier one is, the more blood needed to adequately supply the tissues of the body with oxygen and nutrients. Blood volume therefore must increase and as it increases, so does the pressure inside the arteries.
  • Not being physically active. People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the more consistent it is that higher pressure will be in the arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of being overweight.
  • Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary, but dramatic, increase in blood pressure. If you try to relax by eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol, you may only increase problems with high blood pressure.
 



  • Too much salt (sodium). Too much sodium in the diet can cause the body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
  • Too little potassium. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don't get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.
  • Certain chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, including high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea.
  • Using tobacco. Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise blood pressure, albeit temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of the artery walls. This can cause the arteries to narrow, thus increasing blood pressure. Secondhand smoke also can increase blood pressure.
  • Sometimes pregnancy contributes to high blood pressure


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For further reading and research into the causes, nature and risk factors of Hypertension, you may visit the links below, among others.