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Blood pressure is the force exerted by the circulating blood against the walls of the arteries in the body, which are the major blood vessels in the human body. Hypertension or high blood pressure occurs when this pressure is abnormally high. It is a long-term condition with the potential of causing several other health problems. 

Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood pumped by the heart and the amount of resistance to the flow of blood in the arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher will be the blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and denoted with two numbers. 

-the systolic (first) number represents the pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats. 

-the diastolic (second) number represents the pressure in the vessels when the heart rests between beats.

A person may have hypertension for several years without any manifested symptoms. Uncontrolled hypertension is the cause of a host of other diseases such as kidney failure, heart disease, problems in vision and brain stroke, among many others. 


High blood pressure is called a ‘silent killer’ because most people may have what hypertension is without any signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may vary from one person to another. They include severe headaches, shortness of breath, irregular heart rhythms, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and muscle tremors. 

The only certain way to detect what hypertension is to get regularly checked by a health professional to measure blood pressure. Although one can measure their own blood pressure using automated at-home devices, an evaluation by a medical professional is important for assessment of risk and associated conditions. 


  • Too much salt intake: Too much sodium in the diet can cause the body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
  • Less physical activity: People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher the heart rate, the harder the heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the pressure on the arteries. Lack of physical activity also enhances the risk of being overweight.
  • Uncontrolled alcohol consumption: Heavy drinking can damage the arteries of the heart over time. 
  • Physical and emotional stress: High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. Stress-related habits such as binge-eating, using tobacco or drinking alcohol can lead to further increases in blood pressure.
  • Obesity and uncontrolled weight gain: The more a person weighs, the more blood they need to supply oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. As the amount of blood flow through the blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on the artery walls.
  • Chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea increase the risk of high blood pressure. 


Making lifestyle changes is key in controlling and managing high blood pressure. A doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet with reduced salt intake
  • Incorporating regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight; losing weight if you’re overweight or obese
  • Limiting the amount of alcohol intake 
  • Reducing tobacco consumption
  • Eliminating trans fat in the diet 

In addition to the above measures, hypertension may be treated through medication over a long period of time. However, medication is mostly lifelong. Therefore, those with hypertension should focus on preventive measures. 


Essential (primary)what hypertension is when a person has abnormally high blood pressure that’s not the result of a medical condition or when the underlying cause cannot be determined. This form of high blood pressure is often due to obesity, genetic history and an unhealthy diet. This condition is reversible with medications and lifestyle changes.

Normally, hypertension has one distinct cause. These include a medical condition or side effects of medications. In cases where there is a direct cause, it’s known as secondary hypertension. Primary and secondary hypertension can co-exist, particularly when there’s an acute worsening of blood pressure control; a new secondary cause should be considered.


Among other complications, hypertension is a major cause of heart disease. Excessive pressure can harden the arteries, decreasing the flow of blood to the heart. This can cause:

– Chest pain or angina

– Heart attack and heart failure are caused by the thickening of the arteries

– Irregular heartbeat

– Blockage in the optical arteries causing problems in vision

– Brain stroke is caused by a reduced supply of oxygen to the brain and hardening of the blood vessels which transport the blood 

– Kidney failure is caused by a blockage in the renal arteries

– Dementia is caused by a stroke that interrupts the blood supply to the brain 

– Aneurysm: Increased blood pressure can cause blood vessels to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be fatal.

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