Hypertension

Hypertension is a condition where a person's blood pressure is persistently above normal. Although blood pressure varies from person to person, and from time to time for individuals, readings for a person at rest of 140/90 or above are considered abnormal.

The incidence of hypertension is higher for blacks than whites and increases with age in all groups. High blood pressure is an important risk factor for several diseases. As blood pressure increases, so does the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, retinal damage, and brain tissue dysfunction.

Because hypertension typically offers no overt symptoms, it is often called "The Silent Killer." It is typically diagnosed during a routine medical examination. Since taking one's blood pressure reading is relatively simple, the condition can be easily monitored. Episodes of extremely high blood pressure may cause severe headache, heart failure, and visual disturbances. Extended periods of hypertension may weaken the walls of the blood vessels, making them prone to bulging (aneurysm) or bursting (internal hemorrhage or stroke).

The cause of hypertension is unknown for most patients; however, links have been made to kidney disease, diseases of the arteries, and tumors, especially of the adrenal glands. Other factors associated with hypertension include genetic predisposition, obesity, smoking, high salt intake, high stress levels, and excessive alcohol use.

Treatment often involves addressing the factors associated with hypertension. Medication therapy usually includes the use of diuretics to rid the body of excess salt and fluid retention.