According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of adults in the U.S. suffer from hypertension. Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, occurs when blood pounds against artery walls with excessive force. It is characterized by few symptoms but can lead to a myriad of health problems if left untreated.
The development of hypertension is influenced by a number of factors, including heredity, a stressful lifestyle, smoking, obesity and pregnancy. Many people who suffer from the condition aren’t aware that they have a health problem until elevated blood pressure is observed during a check-up. The most common symptoms, such as headache, shortness of breath, extreme tiredness, blurred vision and chest pain, generally aren’t noticed until blood pressure had climbed to dangerous levels.
Left untreated, hypertension can be debilitating or even deadly. The continuous pounding of blood inside the arteries is can cause damage over time, leading to a heart attack, stroke or aneurysm. It may interfere with an individual’s memory and ability to concentrate. It may also damage the blood vessels leading to the eyes and kidneys, causing loss of eyesight or renal failure.
Hypertension isn’t difficult to diagnose. Once an elevated blood pressure reading is noticed, a physician will begin to monitor the patient to determine whether or not high blood pressure is consistently present. This may be done by having the patient come into the office at various times during the day or by having the patient monitor blood pressure at home. If a hypertension diagnosis is made, blood tests and urine screenings may be ordered to determine how severe the condition is.
There are a variety of treatments available, depending upon how severe hypertension is. Making healthier lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking, eating better, reducing stress and beginning an exercise program, may be enough to bring blood pressure down to acceptable levels. Oftentimes, however, prescription medication is necessary to effectively manage hypertension.
Hypertension is a very treatable condition, especially when caught early. Those diagnosed should heed their doctor’s advice however, as damage to the body caused by high blood pressure is difficult to reverse and can lead to a reduced quality of life or even death.