Hypertension is a medical condition characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries.
Hypertension occurs when the blood pressure is abnormally high. This condition is caused by a narrowing of the small arteries, which forces the blood to exert more pressure against the walls of the vessels.
For adults, hypertension is characterized by a resting blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg, where the first pressure is the systolic pressure and the second the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood on the arteries walls as the heart contracts, and the diastolic pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood on the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats.
Hypertension is classified as either primary or secondary. Primary hypertension is caused by lifestyle and genetic factors, and constitutes the majority of cases. The lifestyle factors that contribute to the development of high blood pressure include excess salt in the diet, excess body weight, smoking, and alcohol use. On the other hand, secondary hypertension is associated with an underlying identified cause such as an endocrine disorder, chronic kidney disease, narrowing of the kidney arteries, or the use of birth control pills.
Treatment of hypertension consists in lifestyle changes and the use of blood pressure medications.