Hypertension: causes, symptoms, and medication
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition wherein the long-term force of blood against your artery walls is high enough to be a cause of concern because it may lead to heart problems, like heart disease.
What is hypertension?
Blood pressure is measured by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart is pumping out, the narrower your arteries become, leading to higher blood pressure.
A person can suffer from hypertension for years without noticing any symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of developing other health problems like heart attacks and strokes.
What are the causes of hypertension?
There are two types of high blood pressure:
- Primary (essential) hypertension – high blood pressure that has no identifiable cause. Tends to develop gradually over time.
- Secondary hypertension – caused by an underlying condition and appears suddenly. Conditions that can lead to secondary hypertension include obstructive sleep apnea, kidney disease, adrenal gland tumors, thyroid problems, congenital defects in blood vessels, medications such as birth control pills, cold remedies, pain relievers, and prescription drugs, and illegal drugs.
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
Most people with hypertension do not experience any symptoms, which is why hypertension can be so dangerous.
Those that do experience the following:
- Shortness of breath
When to see a doctor
You should be taking your blood pressure at least every two years once you reach 18 years of age. If you’re 40 years or older, or 18 to 39 with a risk of high blood pressure, this should be done yearly.
Since hypertension is more often than not a silent disease, blood pressure readings will determine if you are hypertensive.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor will likely recommend you take readings more frequently.
What are the drugs used for hypertension?
The treatment for hypertension is lifestyle change coupled with certain medication. You may be given any one of these types of generic hypertension drugs.
- Diuretics or water pills – removes excess water and sodium from your body so there is less fluid in your veins and arteries. Less fluid means less pressure on your blood vessels.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors – relax blood vessels and help prevent angiotensin from forming.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) – block the action of angiotensin.
- Calcium channel blockers – prevents calcium from entering the cells of the heart and arteries.
- Beta blockers – block epinephrine (adrenaline) and makes your heart beat slower, reducing your blood pressure
- Renin inhibitors – Inhibits the production of renin in your kidneys, which increases your blood pressure.