Hypertension: Information, Facts and Statistics

Author: Disabled World - Contact Details
Updated/Revised Date: 2022/08/27
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Synopsis: Information on hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, a medical condition in which the blood pressure is chronically elevated. The American Heart Association estimates high blood pressure affects approximately one in three adults in the U.S. - 73 million people. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.



Hypertension (HTN) or high blood pressure, sometimes called arterial hypertension, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. Blood pressure is summarized by two measurements, systolic and diastolic, which depend on whether the heart muscle is contracting (systole) or relaxed between beats (diastole). This equals the maximum and minimum pressure, respectively. There are different definitions of the normal range of blood pressure. Normal blood pressure at rest is within the range of 100 - 140 mmHg systolic (top reading) and 60 - 90 mmHg diastolic (bottom reading). High blood pressure is said to be present if it is often at or above 140/90 mmHg.

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In current usage, the word hypertension without a qualifier normally refers to arterial hypertension. Arteries are vessels that carry blood from the pumping heart to all the tissues and organs of the body. Hypertension can be classified as either essential (primary) or secondary:

Hypertension risk factors include obesity, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, and family history. In individuals older than 50 years, hypertension is considered to be present when a person's systolic blood pressure is consistently 140 mm Hg or greater or when the diastolic blood pressure is consistently 90 mm Hg or greater. (see our blood pressure reading chart)

Although no specific medical cause can be determined in essential hypertension, it often has several contributing factors. These include obesity, salt sensitivity, renin homeostasis, insulin resistance, genetics, and age. Over time, the number of collagen fibers in artery and arteriole walls increases, making blood vessels stiffer. With the reduced elasticity comes a smaller cross-sectional area in systole, with a raised mean arterial blood pressure.

Over 91% of adult hypertension has no clear cause and is therefore called essential/primary hypertension. Typically, it is part of the metabolic "syndrome X" in patients with insulin resistance: it occurs with diabetes mellitus (type 2), combined hyperlipidemia, and central obesity.

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Diagram of the upper human body showing possible complications of high blood pressure.
Diagram of the upper human body showing possible complications of high blood pressure.

Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is an increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein, or pulmonary capillaries, together known as the lung vasculature, leading to shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, and other symptoms, all of which are exacerbated by exertion. Pulmonary hypertension can be a severe disease with markedly decreased exercise tolerance and heart failure. The degree to which hypertension can be prevented depends on several features, including:

The American Heart Association estimates high blood pressure affects approximately one in three adults in the United States - 73 million people. High blood pressure is also estimated to impact about two million American teens and children, and the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that many are underdiagnosed. Hypertension is a major public health problem.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

A high or low blood pressure diagnosis requires only one measurement, either systolic or diastolic or both, to be outside the healthy range. For many people with higher than normal blood pressure, there is no obvious cause for their blood pressure being high. Some factors that may contribute to high BP include:

Signs of high blood pressure include headache, dizziness, pounding in the ears, and a bloody nose. These symptoms typically don't occur until high blood pressure has reached an advanced and even a possibly life-threatening stage.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The heart requires blood to bring oxygen and nutrients to its muscle tissue. The narrowing of the arteries due to blockage can cause high blood pressure. If this blockage occurs in the heart and coronary arteries, heart muscle damage can result in a heart attack.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. However, most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain and discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and returns. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Shortness of breath may occur, as well as nausea or lightheadedness. It is vital to get help immediately if any of these symptoms occur.

Blood Pressure Medications

There are several types of blood pressure medications, and if one doesn't work, ask your doctor to switch to another until your blood pressure becomes stable.



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