High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is among the most common health issues among people these days. In fact, almost half of adults in the United States, 47%, or 116 million, have hypertension which increases their risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Hypertension, in a nutshell, means that the pressure in the vessels when the blood is pumped through the body is so high that it can cause health problems.
Main Types of Hypertension and Causes
There are two types of high blood pressure; essential and secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension, also called essential hypertension, means that you cannot find a specific reason why your blood pressure is high, but it is often due to several factors such as an unhealthy lifestyle, genetics, and old age. Essential hypertension develops slowly over a long period and almost everyone gets this type of hypertension at an advanced age.
Some common factors that can contribute to primary hypertension include smoking, being overweight, old age, high salt intake, too little exercise, too much alcohol, stress, and genetics. Usually, people with essential hypertension don’t show any symptoms but they can experience tiredness, frequent headaches, or even nose bleeds.
In secondary hypertension, there’s a definite cause behind the problem. This type of high blood pressure is much less common than the essential type, occurs quickly, and can often affect young people. Usually, the cause is another disease or medication.
Causes of secondary hypertension can also include kidney disease, diseases and tumors of the adrenal glands, hyperparathyroidism, and even too much intake of salt or alcohol. Birth control pills, dietary pills, including over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine, as well as antidepressants and decongestants can cause secondary hypertension. The good news is that if the specific cause is found, this condition can often be controlled.
Additional Types of Hypertension
Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
When the cause is unknown, pulmonary arterial hypertension is classified as idiopathic or primary. When it results from known risk factors or underlying diseases, it’s classified as secondary pulmonary hypertension.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), means that the blood vessels in the lungs become too narrow. As a result, the blood pressure in the lungs becomes abnormally high, as the same volume of blood tries to force its way through increasingly narrow vessels. The heart must then work harder and harder and eventually take damage. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, fatigue, poor fitness, chest pain, and fainting.
The disease cannot be cured, but some treatments can slow down the development, improve the quality of life and prolong life. It’s therefore important that patients with PAH receive a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment at an early stage.
Medications like Sildenafil are given to relax the blood vessels in the lungs to allow blood to flow easily. In addition to PAH-specific drugs, blood thinners can be given to reduce the risk of blood clots. Diuretics may also be needed to reduce the accumulation of fluid in the body, which is partly due to the heart not being able to pump around the blood as efficiently.
Isolated Systolic Hypertension
In Western culture, it is common for blood pressure to increase as people age. The most common type of high blood pressure in older adults is called isolated systolic hypertension which means that the upper pressure is higher than 140 mmHg while the lower one is normal, below 90. To reduce the risk of complications, it is important to treat high blood pressure.
Malignant hypertension is a rather unusual condition characterized by very high blood pressure, kidney problems, and vascular damage in the eyes – the condition can be a consequence of both primary and secondary hypertension.
If a patient’s blood pressure is still too high although they take different types of antihypertensive medications, they might have resistant hypertension. It may have a genetic component and is more prevalent in older people, obese, female, African American, or those with an underlying illness like diabetes or kidney disease.
No matter how severe or what type the hypertension is, it often requires both antihypertensive drugs and lifestyle changes in the form of more exercise, reduced calorie intake, and smoking cessation. If tests show signs of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood fats, or other medical conditions, more targeted measures are required.
You can do a lot yourself to avoid hypertension. Since high blood pressure is often caused by a certain lifestyle, dietary changes and physical activity can make a world of difference in lowering your blood pressure as well as your blood fat and blood sugar levels. This way you’ll reduce the risk of suffering from serious diseases like type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.