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June 18, 2018  |  Login
High Blood Pressure
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

As blood circulates through the body, it presses against the walls of the arteries. The force of this action is called blood pressure. When the pressure is too high, the arterial walls become distorted-they may narrow or thicken-and an extra burden of stress is placed on the heart.

Blood pressure may temporarily rise from exercise, stress, and emotions ranging from joy to anger. Usually, the pressure returns to normal once the situation has passed. In many people, however, blood pressure is high all the time. More than 50 million Americans have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), including almost half of those over the age of sixty-five. The disorder can lead to very serious conditions, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, eye damage, and kidney problems, so it is considered one of the country's leading health problems.

Sometimes there are symptoms of high blood pressure. You may have unexplained headaches, nosebleeds, or spells of dizziness or sweating. But most of the time high blood pressure is completely asymptomatic, so it's vital that you have it checked regularly. The disorder can strike anyone at any age, but it is most common among the elderly, African Americans, and people of all races living in the southeastern United States. If you fall into any of these risk categories, or if you have a family history of hypertension, you should be doubly sure to have routine checks and to take preventative measures.

About 90 percent of all cases of high blood pressure are called primary or essential hypertension, meaning that there is no underlying disease and no obvious cause. Most likely, a cluster of lifestyle factors is to blame: diet, lack of exercise, stress, and smoking have all been linked to an increase in blood pressure. If another disease or condition, such as cardiovascular disease or kidney, adrenal, or thyroid disorders causes the problem, it is called secondary hypertension. A very small percentage of people suffer from malignant hypertension, in which blood pressure can suddenly soar to extremely dangerous levels.

Essential hypertension can often be controlled with home treatment, but if you have any kind of high blood pressure, you must be under the care of a doctor. Talk to him or her about the strategies you want to employ for wellness.

Next: What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

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