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Hypertension

Hypertension is the increase in blood pressure. The blood pressure consists of two numbers, the systolic and diastolic. The systolic is the top number and is created by the squeeze of the heart. The diastolic or bottom number is due to relaxation of the heart and arteries.

The normal BP is below 140/90, but maybe slightly higher in the elderly. Most cases(95%) are due to systolic hypertension.

Hypertension causes a strain on the heart and can thicken the heart muscle over many years. Eventually, the strain causes heart enlargement and heart failure. Long standing hypertension can put you at risk for a heart attack, stroke, aneurysms and kidney failure as well.

Because the rise in blood pressure usually occurs slowly over many years, it does not cause symptoms. Hence, the nickname, the silent killer. If symptoms occur they can consist of chest pain, shortness of breath, headaches, or dizziness.

The detection of hypertension is easy. Have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis. Your doctor will check for secondary causes of hypertension, usually from kidney or endocrine(hormonal) diseases. Most cases, however, are primary(have no identifiable cause) known as essential hypertension.

Treatment includes lifestyle modification including a healthy, low salt diet, regular exercise and weight loss. Your doctor will decide if you need medication and which kind as there are many different classes of blood pressure medications.