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Hypertension causes & risks

Defining hypertension is as difficult as treating it. Hypertension is generally considered to be a blood pressure that is consistently above 140/90, although it could also be just a high systolic pressure, for example, 170/70, or just a high diastolic pressure, for example, 120/104.

Having high blood pressure is a problem because it is a risk factor that can increase your chances of developing a range of serious conditions including heart disease and stroke.

In general, the higher your blood pressure, the greater the risk of developing these diseases, so anything that can be done to reduce it is helpful.

Causes of hypertension are generally not clear. Pressure in the arteries is a result of how hard the heart pumps and how much resistance there is in the arteries. Narrowing and hardening of the arteries will increase blood pressure, but the exact mechanism of this is not clear.

Treatment for high blood pressure is usually a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. The following can all help reduce blood pressure:

  • Losing weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing salt intake
Although high blood pressure is not common in younger adults, about half of people over 65, and about 1 in 4 middle aged adults have high blood pressure.