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Hypertension

This is where the blood pressure is constantly high.  Raised blood pressure is a normal response to particular activities, for example as a response to stress or physical activity.  It also rises naturally as age and weight increases.  One suffering with hypertension, however, has an increased blood pressure even when they are at rest. 

If hypertension is severe it may result in headaches, breathlessness, and visual disturbances.  It usually goes unnoticed, however, as in most cases the condition itself produces no symptoms.  It is recommended that routine health checks are undertaken as it can lead to more serious cardiovascular disorders. 

Causes

Genetic factors are relevant although it is not attributed to a specific gene.  Other factors include high alcohol intake, a diet high in sodium, obesity, diabetes and smoking.  There is also evidence that it may be linked with low birth weight. 

Hypertension can also be a result of specific disorders, such as kidney disorders, certain disorders of the adrenal glands, pre-eclampsia, heart defects and the use of certain drugs.  It can also be caused by the contraceptive pill for some women.

Diagnoses and treatment

The patient's blood pressure is measured at rest on several occasions in order to make a diagnosis.  If there is doubt, a special type of blood pressure monitor can be attached to the patient for 24 hour periods.  This may lead to the detection of a condition known as white coat hypertension, which is where the blood pressure is raised only during examination, but is normal the rest of the time. 

Treatment

When hypertension is mild to moderate, the first step of treatment is lifestyle change.  These changes can be dietary or to do with general life choices, and biofeedback training and relaxation techniques can also be used. 

If these changes have no effect, or if the hypertension is severe, antihypersensitive drugs may be given.  There is a large range of treatment available and the type of treatment depends on the presence of other disorders such as diabetes.  Treatments may need to be adapted according to the individuals response.  It may be possible for the patient to monitor their blood pressure at home, but this should be done under the guidance of a health practitioner. 

In many cases, treatment may be life-long, but will provide a significantly longer outlook for the individual.  


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