Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure of the blood as it flows through the vessels of the body. High blood pressure (hypertension) causes can be broken down into two main types: primary and secondary hypertension. In understanding the cause of your hypertension you will be better equipped to control certain factors affecting this vital sign of life.
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of blood as it is pumped through the blood vessels. The top number, the systolic pressure, measures the force of the heart pumping. The bottom number, the diastolic pressure, measures the force of blood when the heart is at rest.
High blood pressure—hypertension—occurs when the force of the blood against the vessel walls is elevated. A blood pressure reading of 140/90 or above is considered to be hypertension.
There are two main divisions into which hypertension falls; primary and secondary.
Primary hypertension represents the vast majority of diagnosed hypertension. Primary, or essential, hypertension, indicates that the condition originated within the body and not as a result of a disease, and no cause for it can be determined.
Secondary hypertension develops as a result of a condition or disease within the body.
Primary, or essential, hypertension tends to develop over a long period and generally results in less elevated blood pressure than secondary hypertension. According to the Mayo Clinic, 90 to 95 percent of those diagnosed with hypertension have primary hypertension.
Secondary hypertension develops more rapidly and often results in higher blood pressure than primary (essential) hypertension.
Secondary hypertension may develop due to certain prescription and over-the-counter medications, some congenital heart defects, illicit drug use, abnormalities of the kidneys and adrenal gland tumors.
Controllable Risk Factors
For both primary and secondary hypertension, there are risk factors which are within your control. Because uncontrolled hypertension can have serious complications, it is in your best health interest to take control where you are able. The axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” applies to blood pressure.
Being overweight puts more stress on the heart. Because you have more body tissue, more blood must be pumped by the heart to supply the necessary oxygen and nutrients. The more blood you have, the more pressure is required to circulate it.
Drinking alcohol can cause heart damage over a period of time. For some people, even drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can temporarily raise their blood pressure. You should also avoid use of illegal drugs, especially cocaine and amphetamines.
Physical inactivity can cause hypertension. The less physically fit you are, the faster your heart pumps. The faster your heart pumps, the more pressure it requires to circulate the blood. Your heart is a muscle. Even with moderate regular exercise, you can condition it which will result in a slower pulse rate—thus a lower blood pressure.
Use of tobacco is a two-pronged problem when it comes to your blood pressure. While you are smoking the tobacco, your blood pressure is raised because the nicotine causes your vessels to contract. There are chemicals in the tobacco that can damage the lining of your arteries, making the vessels more narrow, which requires a higher blood pressure for the blood to circulate.
Too much salt/sodium, too little potassium in the diet—one or both can cause your blood pressure to elevate.
Your reactions to stress in your daily life can also cause elevated blood pressure.
If your prescription or over-the-counter medication is causing you to have hypertension, discuss alternate treatment options with your health-care provider.