Hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure of the vascular system is chronically elevated. Chronic systolic blood pressure higher than 140 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 mmHg (both measured after 10 minutes of sitting) are considered high blood pressure. This method of measurement is the current standard because the blood pressure is often decreased after sitting down, and increased where physical activities are performed.

Hypertension Illustration

This disease is very common and it is estimated that about 29% of the total population suffers from it. Blood pressure tends to increase with age. High blood pressure is particularly dangerous because it is not always noticeable. Some of the symptoms are morning headache, dizziness, nausea, nosebleeds, fatigue or insomnia. Most often, the disease progresses without symptoms, and it is only identified by the consequential damages, which is why it is also known as the “silent killer”.

Hypertension is a major risk factor in the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, especially if other risk factors such as excessive weight, diabetes, or elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels occur. The resulting cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, and vascular disease causes about 45% of deaths in men and 50% of deaths in women.

Apart from the increased risk of atherosclerosis, a permanently high blood pressure also causes damage to the heart muscle. The muscles are thicker and stiffer so that the heart cannot easily relax in diastole (the relaxation phase) and draw in the blood. This leads to a poorer filling of the heart and the appearance of the heart failure symptoms. If left untreated, high blood pressure can damage the retina, causing blindness, or damage to the kidneys to such an extent that kidney function is seriously reduced. Today, treatments exist to lower high blood pressure disease and alleviate the side effects. These modern drugs increase life expectancy and also tremendously improve the quality of life.

Several genes are responsible for the regulation of blood pressure. Each one can carry a trait that increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. A person who is aware of their personal risk can take preventative measures to lower blood pressure and also speak to a doctor about their risk factors and conditions. These steps can usually prevent the severe and often fatal diseases that are caused by long-term high blood pressure.

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