High blood pressure (hypertension) is designated as either essential (primary) hypertension or secondary hypertension and is defined as a consistently elevated blood pressure exceeding 140/90 mm Hg.
High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it often causes no symptoms for many years, even decades, until it finally damages certain critical organs.
Poorly controlled high blood pressure ultimately can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye, thickening of the heart muscle and heart attacks, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), kidney failure, and strokes.
Most antihypertensive medications can be used alone or in combination. Some are used only in combination. Some are preferred over others in certain specific medical situations. And some are not to be used (contraindicated) in other situations.
Several classes of antihypertensive medications are available, including ACE inhibitors, ARB drugs, beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, and peripheral vasodilators.
The goal of therapy for hypertension is to bring the blood pressure down below 140/85 in the general population and to even lower levels in diabetics, African Americans, and people with certain chronic kidney diseases.
High blood pressure (hypertension) in pregnancy can lead to preeclampsia or eclampsia (toxemia of pregnancy). Pregnant women should be monitored closely by their obstetrician for complications of high blood pressure.
Lifestyle adjustments in diet and exercise and compliance with medication regimes are important factors in determining the outcome for people with hypertension.
High salt intake, obesity, lack of regular exercise, excessive alcohol or coffee intake, and smoking may all adversely affect the outlook for the health of an individual with high blood pressure.