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Byline: Dr M.A. Wajid

Dear Readers, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the most common cardiovascular disease, affecting millions - even children and teens. If you have high blood pressure, you'll probably find out about it during a routine checkup, or noticing it while taking your own blood pressure. Always be sure to see your doctor for a definite diagnosis, and take the opportunity to learn what you can do to bring your blood pressure under control. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke and a major cause of heart attack. In the United States alone, approximately 73 million people have high blood pressure.

What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against artery walls as it courses through the body. Like air in a tire or water in a hose, blood fills arteries to a certain capacity. Just as too much air pressure can damage a tire or too much water pushing through a garden hose can damage the hose, high blood pressure can threaten healthy arteries and lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

How is Blood Pressure Measured?

A blood pressure reading appears as two numbers. The first and higher of the two is a measure of systolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and fills them with blood. The second number measures diastolic pressure or the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

Normal Blood Pressure rises steadily from about 90/60 at birth to about 120/80 in a healthy adult. If someone were to take your blood pressure immediately after you'd delivered a speech or jogged five miles, the reading would undoubtedly seem high. This is not necessarily a cause for alarm: It's natural for blood pressure to rise and fall with changes in activity or emotional state.

It's also normal for blood pressure to vary from person to person, even from one area of your body to another. But when blood pressure remains consistently high, talk with your doctor about treatment. Consistently high blood pressure forces the heart to work far beyond its capacity. Alongwith injuring blood vessels, hypertension can damage the brain, eyes, and kidneys.

Pre-hypertension: Researchers identified people with blood pressures slightly higher than 120/80 as a category at high risk for developing hypertension. This condition is called pre-hypertension. Pre-hypertension is now known to increase the likelihood of damage to arteries and the heart, brain, and kidneys - many doctors are now recommending early treatment.

High Blood Pressure: People with blood pressure readings of 140/90 or higher, taken on at least 2 occasions, are said to have high blood pressure. If the pressure remains high, your doctor will probably begin treatment. People with blood pressure readings of 200/120 or higher need treatment immediately. People with diabetes are treated if their blood pressure rises above 130/80, since they already have a high risk of heart disease.

Malignant Hypertension: Patients who have very high blood pressure are said to have malignant hypertension, 200/120 or higher need treatment immediately. Malignant hypertension is a dangerous condition that may develop rapidly and cause organ damage quickly - it requires immediate medical attention.

Accordingly blood pressure can be categorized as:

* Normal: Less than 120/80

* Pre-hypertension: 120-139/80-89

* Stage I high blood pressure: 140-159/90-99

* Stage II high blood pressure: 160 and above/100 and above

Even so, many people with high blood pressure don't realize they have the condition. Indeed, hypertension is often called "the silent killer" because it rarely causes symptoms, even as it inflicts serious damage to the body. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to vision problems, as well as to heart attack, stroke, and other potentially fatal conditions, including kidney failure. It may also lead to heart failure, a common but disabling condition that can cause breathing problems.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be controlled effectively. The first step is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Essential Hypertension

In as many as 95% of reported high blood pressure cases, the underlying cause cannot be determined. This type of high blood pressure is called essential hypertension. Though essential hypertension remains somewhat mysterious, it has been linked to certain risk factors. High blood pressure tends to run in families and is more likely to affect men than women. It is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. High salt intake is oft en associated wit h cases of essential hypertension.
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Date:Feb 28, 2011
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