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High Blood Pressure

The Human Heart

High blood pressure, or Hypertension, affects almost one third of adults in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Even more amazing, many don't even know they have a blood pressure problem. Normal blood pressure should be below 120/80 mmHg. When measuring blood pressure, two numbers are taken: the 'systolic' and the 'diastolic'. The systolic number is the first number in a blood pressure recording. The systolic measures the blood pressure when the heart beats. The diastolic is the second number, and it measures the pressure when the heart is between beats, or at rest.

Symptoms

Many people don't realize they have high blood pressure because there are no symptoms in the early stages. As it progresses, you may feel dizzy, experience headaches, fatigue, nausea or confusion and nosebleeds. You may experience tiredness, breathlessness following exertion. Some people may also hear a ringing in their ears and have visual disturbances. Pre-hypertension is diagnosed when you have a systolic pressure between 120 to 139 or a diastolic pressure between 80 and 89. Stage 1 hypertension describes a systolic pressure between 140 to 159 or a diastolic pressure between 90 and 99. Stage 2 hypertension is a systolic pressure higher than 160 or a diastolic pressure higher than 100.

Causes

There is usually no one single cause for high blood pressure. For primary hypertension, the cause is usually a combination of being overweight, a low activity level, smoking, how much sodium you eat, low potassium, stress, drinking too much alcohol, age and family history. High blood pressure can also be caused by underlying conditions like kidney disease, thyroid problems, adrenal gland disease, hormonal disorders and some medications like oral contraceptives or even some herbs. Unusual blood pressure resulting from these other conditions is known as secondary hypertension.

Cautions

Depending on the level of your blood pressure, if left untreated it can cause organ damage and raise your risk of brain hemorrhage, stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and loss of vision. See your doctor regularly to check the condition of your heart and overall health.

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