High blood pressure (hypertension) affects up to 1 in 4 adults in the USA and this fact alone makes it a major public health problem.
There are two types of high blood pressure:
- Primary hypertension
Primary hypertension is more common and has several factors which could contribute to it. It accounts for 95% of hypertension.
Secondary hypertension is not as common and accounts for 5% of hypertension cases. Secondary hypertension occurs when there is a malfunction in one of the body’s organs or systems and as a result of this the blood pressure increases.
Primary (or essential) hypertension can be attributed to a variety of factors. Roughly 30% of cases can be attributed to genetic factors. In the US alone, high blood pressure affects more African Americans than it does Asians or Caucasians. Further, you are twice as likely to suffer from high blood pressure if either one, or both, of your parents had it.
For the most part, the majority of patients suffering from primary hypertension appear to have a particular abnormality of the arteries in that they have an increased stiffness or resistance in the arteries that are furthest away from the heart (peripheral arteries).
These peripheral arteries play a vital role in supplying oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to all tissues and organs of the body. Exactly what it is that causes these peripheral arteries to become hard is not known. What is known, however, is that this rigidity is present in those patients whose primary hypertension is related to genetic factors, excessive salt intake, lack of exercise and the aging process.
Treating high blood pressure comes down to evaluating certain lifestyle factors and making the appropriate modifications.
This is a common factor amongst hypertensive patients and becomes more prevalent with age. Obesity is definitely a contributing factor in increased blood pressure because the heart has to work that much harder and pump out more blood to supply the excess tissue. The increase in cardiac activity can then increase the blood pressure accordingly.
Also, hypertensive patients suffering from obesity have a greater rigidity in their peripheral arteries. And, being obese may explain the tendency for the kidneys to retain salt.
Therefore, a proper and careful weight loss routine may aid in reversing the problems related to obesity which may then also help to lower the blood pressure.
Regular exercise can be helpful in decreasing blood pressure long term. Studies have shown that the more you exercise, the more you decrease the blood pressure although the benefits of lower blood pressure deriving from exercise appears to occur only with aerobic exercise.
Smoking by itself is not linked to an increase in the development of high blood pressure although smoking does increase the risk of other complications such as heart disease and strokes.
Steady smokers can potentially have lower blood pressure than non-smokers; this is due to the nicotine in the cigarettes which causes a decrease in appetite, which itself may result in weight loss (which would then cause a decrease in the blood pressure).
Drinking excessive alcohol may double your chances of suffering from high blood pressure. (Excessive in this instance relates to over 2 drinks per day).