What is hypertension?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against your artery walls as it circulates through your body. Blood pressure naturally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can cause problems if it stays too high for a long time.
The medical term for high blood pressure is hypertension – it is sometimes referred to as “the silent killer” because frequently people don’t even know they have it. High blood pressure can have no symptoms or warning signs. High blood pressure generally develops over years. Hypertension is more common as people age. Your diet including excessive alcohol intake and smoking, as well as being overweight, can contribute to the development of hypertension.
What causes hypertension?
Blood pressure is controlled by a complex interaction of signaling from several systems within the body including the nervous system, circulatory system, and endocrine (hormonal) systems. Increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight” system) can affect the blood vessels and the hormonal system resulting in elevated blood pressure (hypertension). The nerves running to the kidney are especially important in the control of blood pressure.
Is there a treatment?
Sometimes people can keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity and eating more healthily. Others will need to add medications to their lifestyle modifications. A wide variety of medications are available for treating high blood pressure – and several are often used together to achieve results. For some people, even with lifestyle changes and medications, it may be difficult to control high blood pressure. Recently, new technologies have been developed that aim to decrease the over-activity of the sympathetic nervous system to lower blood pressure.
1 World Health Organization Report: A global brief on hypertension – silent killer, global public health crisis.