Hypertension Overview

Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, is a very common medical problem. The circulatory system involves the heart pumping blood into the blood vessels. Hypertension is when the pressure in the blood vessels becomes too high. High blood pressure can be from the arteries being too stiff or from blockage in the blood vessels.  A cholesterol plaque is one example of a problem that can cause a blockage in the blood vessels leading to hypertension. Hypertension can be primary or secondary.

Primary hypertension, also called essential hypertension, is the most common form of hypertension. Primary hypertension accounts for at least 90% of hypertension. Although the exact cause of primary hypertension is unknown, there are certain things that can put people at increased risk for primary hypertension. Risk factors for primary hypertension include obesity,  smoking, excessive alcohol intake, sedentary life style, excessive salt intake, older age, black race, and family history.

Secondary hypertension is when high blood pressure is caused by another disease. Secondary hypertension is uncommon and only accounts for 5-10% of people with high blood pressure. Many diseases can cause secondary hypertension. kidney disease such as diabetic nephropathy, polycystic kidneys, glomerular nephritis, and renovascular hypertension can be responsible for secondary hypertension. Certain metabolic disorders can cause secondary hypertension. Examples of this class of metabolic disorders include thyroid disease, Cushing syndrome, aldosteronism, hyperparthyroidism, and pheochromocytoma. Some anatomic abnormalities like coarctation of the aorta cna cause secondary hypertension. Preeclampsia is a special type of secondary hypertension caused by pregnancy.

Most people with hypertension feel fine and do not realize they have high blood pressure. Even if it is asymptomatic, high blood pressure can cause significant long term problems if not treated.  Untreated hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, problems with the extremities, and other problems. For this reason it is important that hypertension is treated to avoid these long term problems.

The treatment of hypertension is a combination of life style modifications and medications. Life style modifications include weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, limiting dietary salt, and decreasing alcohol use. There are many medications available to lower blood pressure. The best medication will depend on what other medical conditions may be present and will be tailored by our doctor to provide optimal treatment.