High Blood Pressure What do doctors call this condition? Hypertension What is this condition? In high blood pressure, the blood exerts too much pressure against the walls of the arteries. When this condition persists, it eventually damages blood vessels and reduces blood flow to body tissues. This can damage the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes. If high blood pressure damages the heart and blood vessels, the risk of life-threatening complications - heart failure, a heart attack, or a stroke - increases. An episode of severely elevated blood pressure may lead to brain damage and even death.
High blood pressure affects 15% to 20% of adults in North America. It's a major cause of stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. Fortunately, though, the outlook is good if the disorder is detected early and treatment starts before complications develop. What causes it? In most people, the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. However, researchers have identified certain risk factors - a family history of high blood pressure, race (most common in blacks), stress, obesity, a diet high in saturated fats or salt, tobacco use, a sedentary lifestyle, and aging. Less commonly, high blood pressure is caused by an identifiable cause, such as: pregnancy neurologic disorders endocrine disorders - for example, cushing's syndrome, primary hyperaldosreronism, or dysfunction of the thyroid glands disease of kidney vessels pheochromocytoma (a tumor of the adrenal gland) coarctation of the aorta (a congenital heart defect) use of oral contraceptives or other alfa, and Sandimmune.
What are its symptoms? High blood pressure rarely causes symptoms until blood vessels in the heart, brain, or kidneys change. Extremely high blood pressure damages the inner lining of small blood vessels, possibly leading to blood clots. Then this happens, the effects depend on the location of the damaged vessels: brain: stroke retina: blindness heart: heart attack kidneys: protein in the urine and, eventually, High blood pressure makes the heart work harder, causing the left ventricle (the heart's main working chamber) to enlarge. Eventually, both the left and right ventricles may the lungs. How is it diagnosed? A blood pressure reading consists of two values.
The first is systolic pressure - maximum pressure, or that exerted when the heart is beating. The second value is diastolic pressure -minimum pressure, or that exerted when the heart relaxes between beats. The doctor diagnoses high blood pressure after a series pressure measurements above 140/90 in a person under age 50 or above 150/95 in person over age 50. The doctor also performs a physical exam, which may reveal abnormal sounds over certain arteries.
An eye exam may characteristic changes too. The person's history and additional diagnostic studies may point to certain predisposing factors and help identify an underlying cause or complications. For example, intravenous pyelography (an x-ray study of the kidneys) can detect kidney shrinkage if high blood pressure has caused chronic kidney disease.
If the doctor suspects primary hyperaldosteronism as the cause of high blood pressure, the blood potassium level will be measured. To check for damage to the heart and blood vessels and other complications of high blood pressure, these tests may be ordered: electrocardiogram, which may show an enlarged left ventricle or decreased blood supply to this chamber chest X-ray, which may show an enlarged heart echocardiography (a study of heart motion and structure), which may show an enlarged left ventricle. How is it treated? To treat high blood pressure with no known cause, the doctor typically uses a stepped-care approach: Step 1: The person makes lifestyle changes, such as losing weight (if needed), limiting alcohol intake, exercising regularly, reducing salt intake, and stopping smoking. Step 2: If Step 1 measures fail to reduce blood pressure adequately, the person continues lifestyle modifications and starts drug therapy.
Preferred drugs for lowering blood pressure include diuretics or beta blockers. If these drugs are ineffective or unacceptable, the doctor may prescribe angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium antagonists, alpha-1-receptor blockers, or alpha-beta blockers . Step 3: If the person still doesn't reach the desired blood pressure or make significant progress, the doctor increases the drug dosage, substitutes a drug in the same class, or adds a drug from a different class. Step 4: If the person still fails to achieve the desired blood pressure or make significant progress, the doctor adds a second or third drug or a diuretic (if one isn't already prescribed). If the cause of a persons high blood pressure is known, treatment aims at correcting the underlying cause and controlling the effects of high blood pressure.
What can a person with high blood pressure do? Be sure to comply with prescribed therapy; uncontrolled high blood pressure may cause a stroke or a heart attack. Establish a daily routine for taking prescribed medication. NotifY the doctor if you experience side effects of medication.
Change your eating habits, as directed by the doctor. If you're obese, begin a weight-loss diet. Avoid high-sodium foods and table salt. Avoid high-sodium antacids and over-the-counter cold and sinus medications, which contain substances that narrow the blood vessels. As needed, make changes in your lifestyle - for example, by reducing stress and exercising regularly . Have your doctor check your blood pressure at frequent, regular visits.
Robert Baird writes for http://www.diseases-treatment.com . Get information and facts about diseases and ailments with tips about the treatment and prevention of disease.