Essential Hypertension

People are classified as hypertensive if they show chronic (long lasting) elevation in either their systolic or diastolic blood pressure. Though either systolic or diastolic blood pressure elevations can qualify someone for hypertension, systolic hypertension generally causes more serious problems, including heart, kidney, and vascular complications.

Hypertension Subtypes, Causes and Prevention Strategies

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is classified into subtypes. There are known causes for some subtypes, while others are not well understood. All different types of hypertension are dangerous.

Essential Hypertension

The most common type of hypertension is called essential hypertension, (or alternatively, idiopathic hypertension, or primary hypertension.). Doctors do not know what causes essential hypertension, but many risk factors associated with the disease have been identified:

  • Age and Gender. Both older men and women are at more risk for hypertension than their younger counterparts; however, increased blood pressure is being seen in obese children. Under the age of 55, men have more hypertension than women. After age 55, more women suffer from hypertension. Women are more likely to die from high blood pressure-related causes.
  • Ethnicity. African-Americans have increased rates of high blood pressure and are at increased risk for death associated with hypertension. Native American, Caucasian, and Hispanic Americans have similar rates of hypertension.
  • Obesity. Obesity is associated with hypertension. The exact mechanism is unknown but obesity could cause the body to have structural changes in the vessels and kidneys that cause hypertension. Even moderate obesity can double an adult's risk of high blood pressure.
  • Smoking. Smoking alone can increase blood pressure by 10 mmHg over a non-smoker. Smoking also causes direct damage to blood vessels and can hasten the complications of high blood pressure.
  • Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes is due to insulin deregulation. This disease process appears to be biologically linked with high blood pressure. Diabetic complications (kidney disease, vascular insufficiency, eye disease) can be related to the hypertension suffered by most diabetics. Diabetics have a lower blood pressure goal of 130/85 than non-diabetics.
  • Family History. Studies into the genetic causation of hypertension have revealed that there is both a genetic and environmental component that causes hypertension to "run in the family". Cases of hypertension in adults under the age of 65 often have a strong familial component.
  • Personality. People who have mental stress, poor coping mechanisms, and anxiety are at increased risk for high blood pressure. Depression has also been linked to increased risk of hypertension. This demonstrates the mind-body connection and how we must take care of our mental as well as physical health.
  • Drugs/Substances. Alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs can lead to increased blood pressure. Over time this can complicate underlying hypertension or hasten organ damage from high blood pressure.