High blood pressure (hypertension) often does not cause any discomfort and is nevertheless one of the greatest dangers to the heart. If left untreated, there is a risk of heart attack, stroke or kidney damage. All about typical risk factors and the most common causes of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure shortens life
Statistically, untreated hypertension reduces life expectancy by a full eleven years. Since the symptoms are often absent or unspecific, only about one in two people with hypertension knows about their disease. Only every fourth person is treated correctly. “Everyone should have their blood pressure checked,” says Prof. Hermann Haller, Chairman of the German High Pressure League (Deutsche Hochdruckliga e.V.). Particularly important are the measurements on people over 45, overweight people and patients with other risk factors such as diabetes or fat metabolism disorders.
High blood pressure threatens stroke or heart attack
In order to supply our organs and muscles with oxygen and nutrients, our heart continuously pumps blood through the body. During exertion or stress, the pressure in the blood vessels is increased to increase performance. This does not hurt and usually does not cause any noticeable discomfort. However, if the pressure is permanently too high, the vessel walls will be damaged. Especially if other risk factors are present, the vessels can narrow. There is a risk of stroke or heart attack.
Primary and secondary hypertension
In order to differentiate the reasons for high blood pressure, doctors distinguish between primary hypertension (also called essential hypertension) and secondary hypertension. In addition to these two, there are special forms that are usually only of temporary duration. One example is pregnancy hypertension.
Primary hypertension is the most common form of high blood pressure in almost 90 percent of cases. It has no organic cause for high blood pressure. Researchers suspect that hereditary factors reduce the elasticity of the blood vessels. As a consequence, the heart muscle has to pump more. This is achieved by higher pressure. In addition to genetic disposition, too much alcohol, smoking, stress, poor nutrition and diabetes are the causes of primary hypertension.
Secondary hypertension is caused by disturbances or diseases of the organs. Possible causes include anomalies in the cardiovascular system or diseases of the kidneys. Over- or under functions in the hormone system are also possible causes.
Causes of high blood pressure
How the body regulates blood pressure is not yet fully understood. It uses biochemical messengers, organs, blood vessels and the nervous system. It is still unclear where this mechanism is so disturbed that high blood pressure develops.
However, there are some factors that favour high blood pressure:
- Too little exercise
- unhealthy diet
- Overweight (abdominal girth from 102 cm for men, from 88 cm for women)
- increased blood sugar (diabetes mellitus)
Basically, the risk of high blood pressure increases in men aged 55 and over, and in women hormonal changes usually increase from the menopause onwards.
Drugs for high blood pressure – yes or no?
If it is not enough to change to a healthy lifestyle, the doctor will prescribe medication to keep the blood pressure in check. About every third patient even needs several different medications until the blood pressure normalizes. Both the reliable intake and regular blood pressure checks by the doctor are important.