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Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure refers to the pressure that blood applies to the inner walls of arteries, the tubes that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Blood pressure is reported with two measurements: systole/diastole. Systole is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts (heart beats) while diastole is the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes (between heart beats). A normal blood pressure is a systole/diastole of less than 120/80.
Untreated high blood pressure increases the strain on the heart and arteries, which will eventually cause organ damage as well as increase the risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.

You are more likely to develop high blood pressure as you get older. Other risk factors include:
  • African American race
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating too much salt
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
High blood pressure that has no cause is called "essential hypertension" while high blood pressure that is caused by another condition (such as kidney disease, disorders of the adrenal gland, pregnancy, etc.) is called "secondary hypertension."

Most of the time, hypertension causes no symptoms. However, if you develop something called "malignant hypertension" or a sudden and dangerous severely high blood pressure, you can have a severe headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, changes in vision, or nosebleeds.

A diagnosis is made when the doctor measures your blood pressure. To receive a diagnosis, your blood pressure must be high at two separate office visits at least one week apart.
  • A blood pressure of 121 to 139 over 81 to 89 is known as pre-hypertension, which puts you at risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular complications.
  • Hypertension is broken down into two stages. Stage 1 hypertension is a blood pressure of 140 to 159 over 90 to 99 while Stage 2 hypertension is a blood pressure greater than 160/100.

To decrease the risk of dangerous complications like heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure must be managed. Treatment of hypertension usually begins with lifestyle changes. These may include:
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Avoiding drinking too much alcohol
  • Stopping to smoke
  • Exercising at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week
If your blood pressure continues to be high, your doctor may prescribe medications. There are many different kinds of medicines, but the most often used are diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, and calcium channel blockers. These all work in different ways, so talk to your doctor before you start taking them.

You can help prevent developing high blood pressure with the same lifestyle changes listed above: eating less salt, losing weight, drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, and exercising.

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