Hypertension (also called high blood pressure) occurs when blood pumps through your arteries with too much force. Blood pressure is naturally high when you first wake up, after exercising, and when you are under stress. Consistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of serious medical conditions like stroke, heart attack or heart failure.
What causes hypertension?
Hypertension can be caused by another medical condition. When there is a secondary cause of hypertension, we call this Secondary hypertension. However, most of the time it has no underlying causes (Primary hypertension). Risk factors for hypertension include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Family history of hypertension
- Excessive alcohol use
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
Usually, there are no symptoms of hypertension. Most patients are diagnosed with hypertension when their doctor checks their blood pressure during a routine screening.
How is hypertension diagnosed?
Hypertension is diagnosed using a blood pressure measurement from a blood pressure test. It is taken with an inflatable cuff placed around your upper arm and then a measurement is recorded with a pressure-measuring gauge, which measures the force of blood against the walls of your arteries as your heart beats. Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers (for example, 120 over 80). If you have hypertension, one or both of these numbers will be too high. Your blood pressure should be measured in both arms.
How is hypertension treated?
Lifestyle changes and medication can help you lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of complications. Lifestyle changes include:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet and reducing sodium (salt)
- Drinking plenty of water
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol
- Reducing stress
Many different medications are available to manage hypertension. Sometimes a single medication may not be enough to reduce your blood pressure, and you will be prescribed two or more drugs. Your cardiologist may also perform an echocardiogram or electrocardiogram (EKG) to diagnose any other possible conditions and look into overall heart health.