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Understanding Hypertension: Causes, Effects, and Prevention


Every year, many Americans are diagnosed with hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is when the blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high, according to the American Heart Association. There are many reasons behind why high blood pressure might develop but it is important to understand why you want normal numbers when the nurse checks your vitals at your next doctor’s appointment.

First of all, your tissue and organ functions require oxygenated blood that your circulatory system carries throughout the body. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped blood vessels, which include arteries, veins, and capillaries. This pressure — blood pressure — is the result of two forces: The first force (systolic pressure) occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. The second force (diastolic pressure) is created as the heart rests between heart beats.

High blood pressure of hypertension can range from mild to severe. Hypertension is a blood pressure of 140/90 or above. The first number is the measurement of the blood's force against artery walls when the heart is beating. The second number is the pressure between beats. A person is hypertensive if either number is too high. Your heart has two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Each time blood passes through your heart, the lower right chamber (right ventricle) pumps blood to your lungs through a large blood vessel (pulmonary artery).

Hypertension—high blood pressure affects a third of American adults, roughly 67 million people. “Generally, whatever problems impact cardiovascular health also affect cognitive functioning," says Merrill Elias, Ph.D., According to Michael J. Breus, Ph.D.,if you suffer from type 2 diabetes or hypertension, you should be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea. More than 25 million people in the U.S. have hypertension and approximately 90 to 95% of these are cases of type 2 diabetes.

The primary way that high blood pressure causes harm is by increasing the workload of the heart and blood vessels — making them work harder and less efficiently. Over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries. The more the plaque and damage increases, the narrower (smaller) the insides of the arteries become — raising blood pressure.

The signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension develop slowly. You may not notice them for months or even years. Symptoms get worse as the disease progresses. Pulmonary hypertension symptoms include: Shortness of breath (dyspnea), initially while exercising and eventually while at rest; Fatigue; Dizziness or fainting spells (syncope); Chest pressure or pain; Swelling (edema) in your ankles, legs and eventually in your abdomen (ascites); Bluish color to your lips and skin (cyanosis); Racing pulse or heart palpitations “Weight is a biggie," says Merrill Elias, Ph.D., "The more you weigh, the more pressure there is."

Blood pressure can be kept in check by keeping cholesterol low, not smoking, and limiting salt. But perhaps the most important factor is controlling weight, a struggle most Americans are not winning. Most people think salt is the culprit in high blood pressure. In the vast majority of cases, salt isn't the root of the problem. Only about one third of people with high blood pressure are what doctors call "salt sensitive. "The rest of the folks can eat all the salt they want without seeing much change in their blood pressure," says Shari Waldstein, Ph.D.

In some people, pulmonary hypertension slowly gets worse and can be life-threatening. Although there's no cure for some types of pulmonary hypertension, treatment can help reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life. Growing older can increase your risk of developing pulmonary hypertension. The condition is more often diagnosed in people ages 30 to 60.

Genetic factors, weight, environmental factors such as asbestos exposure or living in a high altitude, use of narcotics, weight-loss drug use, and use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), used to treat depression and anxiety, all are factors in causing hypertension.

According to Wayne Jonas, MD, an American family physician and retired army medical officer, magnesium and calcium reduce blood pressure. Those with hypertension should aim to meet nutritional goals, add a balanced diet, and limit saturated fats, sugar and alcohol are also important to lower your blood pressure, Jonas added. Something as simple as blood pressure is easy to overlook, but it’s never too late to start paying attention to the contributing factors that could lead to hypertension.

About the Author:

Hilary Valdez is a freelance Writer living in Tokyo, Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle.

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