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What Is Hypertension?

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. In the United States alone, as many as 65 million adults have high blood pressure, and the older you are, the higher the risk for developing hypertension.

SUZANNE HUGHES, MSN, RN: It's very common to develop hypertension later in life. If one makes it to age 55 with normal blood pressure, their risk of developing high blood pressure yet in their lifetime is around 90 percent. It's an important thing for people to realize that, particularly in the early stages, there are no symptoms of hypertension or high blood pressure and that's why the condition has gotten the name "the silent killer," because damage is being done to the end organs in the absence of any symptoms at all.

ANNOUNCER: Blood pressure is measured by two numbers. The larger number, known as systolic pressure, and the smaller number, which is called diastolic pressure. An ideal blood pressure reading would be equal to or less than 120/80. A reading of 140/90 or higher would be considered hypertension. If left undiagnosed or uncontrolled, hypertension can cause a multitude of medical conditions.

JAMIE B. CONTI, MD: High blood pressure can cause several major problems, including stroke, kidney failure and heart disease, both coronary artery disease and heart failure. And the relationship is in the arteries. And the longer the arteries are under high blood pressure, the more the other organs are affected. So ignoring one's blood pressure over the long term is a really bad idea.

ANNOUNCER: Fortunately, once diagnosed, hypertension can be controlled through lifestyle changes and medication.

ADOLPH M. HUTTER, JR., MD: One of the basic treatments for hypertension is a low salt diet. If you get rid of the extra salt, you get on a low salt diet, that in itself will help lower your blood pressure.

SUZANNE HUGHES, MSN: We know that it's very important for people that have been identified as having hypertension to avoid or quit tobacco products. Additionally, following what we call the DASH diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This is a diet that's low in fat, it's high in fruits and vegetables and it also has two to three servings a day of low-fat dairy products.

ROBERT S. SCHWARTZ, MD: Many drugs are available that can lower the blood pressure. Or possibly lowering the amount of water in a person's body through giving agents that are diuretics, that is, causing water to be lost through the urine. Other classes of drugs do things such as relax the heart or slow the heart rate down, all of which can lower the blood pressure directly.

SUZANNE HUGHES, MSN, RN: I think the important thing that people need to remember is, if one has hypertension, it will take an average of 2.7 medications to manage that high blood pressure.

ANNOUNCER: No matter how healthy you feel, there is still one sure-fire way to find out if you suffer from hypertension: Visit your physician on a regular basis

ADOLPH M. HUTTER, JR., MD: Hypertension can be without any symptoms. You may have hypertension and not know it because you don't have headaches or flushing, and you feel wonderful. So you need to get your blood pressure checked.

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