What is Hypertension?

It is diagnosed by either

  1. Systolic (the top number of the blood pressure reading) consistently 140 mmHg or higher, or

  2. Diastolic (the bottom number) consistently 90 mmHg or higher.

Over 66 million adults have hypertension and over half of these people are either not controlled, unaware of having it, or not being treated. Chronic health problems such as diabetes mellitus type 2 and high cholesterol are significant contributors to worse events such as heart attack, ischemic stroke, and congestive heart failure if not appropriately managed.  

Causes of Increased Blood Pressure

95% of people with this medical condition have what is known as primary, or essential, hypertension. It results from genetic factors, increased sodium intake, and obesity. 5% of all cases are due to identifiable secondary causes such as kidney and hormone disorders. Secondary causes of this illness should be suspected when someone develops high blood pressure at an early age, after age 50, or when it suddenly becomes very difficult to control.

People have cured their hypertension with exercise and weight loss.

Why is it Often Called Silent Killer?

Hypertension is often referred to as the silent killer. This is because left untreated, it progresses to life threatening complications such as coronary artery disease. congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and aortic aneurysm which is abnormal enlargement of the large artery that exits the heart. This progression is often silent over many years with no or inadequate treatment, during which time the sufferer falsely believes that he or she is doing fine. Hypertension can also lead to dementia or memory loss due to repeated tiny strokes that damage the brain tissue. This disorder is known as multi-infarct dementia.

Treatment of this Specific Cardiovascular Disease

Like most medical conditions, treatment of increased blood pressure is multifactorial and begins with therapeutic lifestyle changes or lifestyle modification. These lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet that is low in salt also known as the DASH diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and tobacco cessation. People have improved their health condition with exercise and weight loss. Medications are required to control high blood pressure in most sufferers and typically more than one medication is needed to achieve acceptable control. It is important that you follow up with your health care provider regularly to monitor your condition and adjust medications as appropriate.