Health Library: Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

When an individual suffers from high blood pressure, the arteries are exposed to too much pressure involving the heart and the circulatory system. Hypertension is the term used when this condition persists for any length of time. Over time, the continued strain and overworking of these systems can lead to the damage of the heart and other bodily organs. The risk for high blood pressure increases with age, but the disease can also occur in children. Regular monitoring of blood pressure can help identify the onset of pre-hypertension, which can be controlled before high blood pressure develops.

There are two classes of hypertension: primary and secondary. Primary hypertension, also known as Essential hypertension, is not attributed to an underlying disease but is rather caused by lifestyle factors, such as a mismanaged diet, lack of exercise, stress and obesity. Secondary hypertension can be directly linked to another disease, such as an Endocrine system malfunction like Diabetes Mellitus. With the secondary type, high blood pressure can be resolved when the underlying condition has been addressed.

Hypertension is considered a dangerous medical condition, because it can negatively affect individuals without presenting any obvious symptoms. Damage to important bodily organs and systems, like blood vessels can accumulate over time, and may lead to serious health complications. If hypertension goes untreated, it progresses to potentially fatal health conditions like stroke, eye problems, kidney failure and heart failure. Only about 30% of people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure are treated for it, resulting to an increased prevalence and a potential source of cardiovascular disease and other related chronic health conditions.

There are certain risk factors associated with the development of high blood pressure. Some of the predisposing factors like being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, adding excess salt into the diet, drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco may be controlled. However, some pre-existing factors like age, family history and African-Caribbean heritage, may also contribute to high blood pressure as well. Knowing one's genetic proclivity towards hypertension can go a long way towards prevention rather than treatment.

While hypertension usually affects people during adulthood, the health condition can also occur in children. When high blood pressure develops in children, it is referred to as Pediatric Hypertension. Though less than one in a hundred children have severe high blood pressure, the incidence is commonly attributed to renal, nervous, heart and endocrine problems. The management of pediatric hypertension is often similar but not limited in scope to the therapies suggested for adults, including the adoption of a managed diet, exercise, weight control and some medications.

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