Richard N. Fogoros, MD, is a retired professor of medicine and board-certified internal medicine physician and cardiologist.
Hypertension is the medical or clinical term for "high blood pressure. "It is a very common medical problem and a leading cause of heart attack, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.
Most people who have hypertension only develop symptoms when their condition progresses enough to cause damage to the inner walls of their arteries. In many instances, the very first sign of hypertension is a sudden heart attack or a stroke. This is why hypertension is often called "the silent killer."
When it comes to treating hypertension, the good news is that there are a vast number of prescription medications available—and guidelines have been developed to help doctors quickly find an effective and well-tolerated treatment regimen for almost anyone with this condition.
Pulmonary hypertension is a serious condition that causes high blood pressure within the blood vessels that carry blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs (where it picks up oxygen). As a result, patients have problems breathing and feel weak and fatigued.
Primary (essential) hypertension has no known cause; although, there are factors, like older age and having a family history, that increase a person's risk for developing it. Secondary hypertension is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as sleep apnea, obesity, diabetes, or kidney disease.
Essential hypertension, also called primary hypertension, is a common medical condition that does not usually cause symptoms but puts a person at risk for a heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Unlike secondary hypertension, which is caused by an underlying medical condition, essential hypertension has no known cause.
Hypertension does not generally cause symptoms, including headaches. That said, some people may notice a change in or worsening of their headaches when their blood pressure is higher than usual. In rare instances, a headache may be indicative of a hypertensive crisis—this is a medical emergency and occurs when a patient's blood pressure reaches 180/120 mm Hg or higher.
Arterial hypertension is another name for hypertension or high blood pressure. This interchangeable term is used most commonly by medical societies in Europe like the European Society of Cardiology and the European Society of Hypertension.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries (a type of blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood). It is a key measurement for heart health. Normal blood pressure for adults is less than 120 over 80 (120/80) millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Cardiovascular disease is a broad, umbrella term for disorders of the heart and blood vessels including coronary artery disease, stroke, hypertension, congenital heart disease, heart arrhythmias, heart valve problems, and heart failure.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted. There are two main types of strokes—ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery carrying blood to the brain becomes blocked from a clot. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery breaks open and bleeds in or around the brain.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High Blood Pressure. Updated May 13, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure signs and symptoms. Updated July 7, 2014.
Wright JM, Musini VM, Gill R. First-line drugs for hypertension. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Apr 18;4:CD001841. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001841.pub3
American Heart Association. What are the symptoms of high blood pressure? Updated October 31, 2016.
American Heart Association. What is Cardiovascular Disease? Reviewed May 2017.
Mancia G, Fagard R, Narkiewicz K et al. 2013 ESH/ESC Guidelines for the management of arterial hypertension. J Hypertens. 2013
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