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Is Essential Hypertension A Danger to Your Health?

Aug 18, 2007
If your blood pressure reading is 140/90, you have high blood pressure (essential hypertension). Blood pressure measurements are read as two numbers. The higher number is called the systolic pressure. The lower number is called the diastolic pressure. Normal systolic pressure is 120 or less, and normal diastolic pressure is 80 or less.

People with systolic pressures between 120 and 139, or diastolic pressures of 80 to 89 are considered "pre-hypertensive" and need medical monitoring and lifestyle changes.

High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and blood vessels. Over time, it can damage these organs and tissues.

What Are The Causes?
By definition, the cause of essential hypertension is not known, but medical monitoring and lifestyle changes can help prevent it.

What Are the Risk Factors?
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

* Sex:
- Male
- Postmenopausal female
* Race: Black
* Age: Middle-aged and older
* Overweight
* Heavy alcohol consumption
* Smoking
* Use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
* Sedentary lifestyle
* Family history
* Kidney disease
* Diabetes
* High-fat, high-salt diet
* Emotional stress

What Will The Symptoms Be?
High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms. Many people have it and don't even suspect it. Your organs and tissues can be damaged by high blood pressure without your feeling any symptoms.

Blood pressure (BP) must reach extreme levels before symptoms can be noticed. Occasionally, people with very high BP may experience the following symptoms:

* Headache
* Blurry or double vision
* Abdominal pain
* Chest pain
* Shortness of breath
* Dizziness

Is There A Diagnosis?
High BP is often diagnosed during a visit to the doctor. Blood pressure is measured using the familiar cuff around the arm and a device called a sphygmomanometer. If your BP reading is high, you'll be asked to come back for repeat blood pressure checks. If you have two or more visits with readings over 140/90, you will be diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Tests to make sure your high blood pressure is not caused by another medical condition and that it has not already caused complications include:

* Blood tests
* Urine tests
* Chest x-rays - a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
* Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)- a test that records the heart's activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle

How Is High BP Treated?

A. Lifestyle Changes

1. Lose weight if necessary. Your health care provider can recommend a safe weight loss plan and a reasonable target weight.
2. Begin a safe exercise program based on the advice of your health care provider. In addition, try to add physical activity into your daily life.
3. Eat a low-fat, low-sodium, high-fiber diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, as recommended by your health care provider.
4. If you smoke, quit. There are additional health risks associated with smoking.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation. Moderate alcohol intake is no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
6. Consider counseling, stress reduction exercises, and meditation to decrease the stress in your life.

B. Medications to lower blood pressure include:

1. Diuretics
2. Beta blockers
3. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)
4. Calcium channel blockers
5. Alpha blockers
6. Alpha-beta blockers
7. Nervous system inhibitors
8. Vasodilators

Note: Untreated high blood pressure can lead to:

* Heart disease
* Heart attack
* Stroke
* Kidney damage

Use Prevention to reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure:

* Eat a healthful diet, one that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
* Exercise regularly.
* Maintain a healthy weight.
* Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
* Drink alcohol in moderation. Moderate alcohol intake is no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
About the Author
Tom Nuckels is owner of the LpVitamins web site and health article author. Read more articles like this one at his web site. To see what liquid vitamins can do for you visit http://www.lpvitamins.com.
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