Blood Pressure

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How Does My Blood Pressure Affect My Risk?

"High blood pressure is the leading risk for death throughout the world.”

There are some risk factors you cannot control, and these put you at greater risk for high blood pressure. They include:

  • Age: About 50% of people older than the age of 65 have high blood pressure
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Ethnicity: High blood pressure is more common among people who are of African, South Asian, or First Nations descent.
  • Gender: The risk for women increases after menopause, putting them in even greater jeopardy than men.

Causes

There are two main causes, or types, of high blood pressure:

  1. Primary (also known as “essential”): Cases in which there is no easily identifiable cause for high blood pressure. The risk of developing essential hypertension increases with age. A number of lifestyle factors can increase the risk for essential hypertension, including:
    • Getting too much salt in the diet
    • Drinking alcohol excessively (males no more than two drinks a day; females one drink a day)
    • Being overweight
    • Getting insufficient exercise
    • Experiencing unmanageable stress
  2. Secondary: Cases in which high blood pressure does have an identifiable cause. Common causes of secondary hypertension include:
    • Kidney disease
    • Hormone disorders
    • Some drugs (such as birth control pills and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
    • Sleep apnea (repeated, short stops in breathing while sleeping)
    • Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)

Symptoms

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

High blood pressure has been called the silent killer because it often has no warning signs or symptoms.

People with high blood pressure are often not aware they have it until they are diagnosed by a health care professional. You could have high blood pressure for years without knowing it, putting you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and organ damage.

If damage has occurred, you may have symptoms that include:

  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)

People who take certain high blood pressure medications, such as diuretics, have an increased risk for low blood pressure.
Low blood pressure can be considered “normal pressure” to some people who have low blood pressure all the time. In this case, they have no signs or symptoms.

Symptoms of hypotension may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Cold and sweaty or clammy skin
  • Tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea

Hypotension is a medical concern only if it causes signs or symptoms or is linked to a serious condition, such as heart disease.