is the medical term for high blood pressure. It means that there
is elevated pressure within the arteries and veins through which
blood flows to and from the heart.
pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (your physician
will write this down as mmHg), and expressed as systolic pressure
(when your heart is contracting to pump blood) over diastolic
pressure (when the heart is relaxed). Hypertension is usually
defined as a blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg.
is one of the most common medical conditions, affecting some 50
million Americans (African-Americans more often than whites).
half of all people over 50 develop hypertension. But itís a
common misconception that high blood pressure is a normal part of
aging. In fact, hypertension can be considered an early warning of
problems developing in the cardiovascular or other organ systems.
People with hypertension have a higher than normal risk for:
- coronary heart
disease and heart attacks,
- heart failure
- stroke or
transient ischemic attack
- kidney disease
recent years, the long-term health risks of hypertension have
become increasingly well defined. As a result, physicians have
been encouraged to be extremely careful in their evaluation of
people they suspect may have hypertension, and to treat the
condition more aggressively. To confirm a diagnosis of
hypertension, your doctor might ask you to come in for a blood
pressure measurement on several different occasions, or to wear a
portable monitor (a Halter monitor) that records your blood
pressure changes over an entire day.
you have hypertension your physician will likely advise you to
attempt to make some lifestyle changes that can help lower your
blood pressure. These can include:
- getting some
exercise on a regular basis
a few pounds, if you are overweight
a healthy diet, and especially reducing your intake of fat and
people do eventually require drug therapy for high blood pressure.
There are a great many drugs available for hypertension. In
selecting the right therapy for you, your doctor will consider
such factors as your age, how high your blood pressure is, what
other conditions or illnesses you may have (everything from asthma
to diabetes and high cholesterol can affect the choice of blood
pressure medication), and the particular characteristics and
advantages of the various medications (such as whether they can be
taken just once a day). The main classes of antihypertensive drugs