The Essentials of Essential Hypertension
Essential hypertension is the most common form of high blood pressure in America, accounting for 95% of all reported cases.1 The good news is, it is a highly modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease. So with a few lifestyle changes, you can improve the health of your heart and lower your blood pressure.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension refers to the level of pressure it takes to pump blood through your heart into your arteries. When blood pressure is too high, it is called hypertension.
There are two types of hypertension:
- Essential hypertension or primary hypertension – has no secondary cause.
- Secondary hypertension – has an evident cause, such as kidney disease.
What are the risk factors of essential hypertension?
While there are some known risk factors involved in essential hypertension, without extensive genetic testing, it is almost impossible to determine a secondary cause. However, certain factors like genetics, gender, and age can increase the risk of developing essential hypertension. Other risk factors include:
- High body mass index or BMI
- High stress lifestyle
- Lack of daily exercise
- High fat, high sugar diet
- Smoking and drinking
- Too much salt
How to prevent
Elevated blood pressure or essential hypertension can be prevented and improved with a few healthy lifestyle changes.
Maintain healthy body weight
When you’re carrying around excessive body weight, it puts great pressure on your body. Your joints, your muscles, and your heart all need to work harder. A high body mass index can also lead to other health ailments, so it’s always a good idea to eat healthy, wholesome food and consume less high fat and sugary meals. For heart health, the Mediterranean Diet remains the best-rated diet in the U.S.
Reduce salt intake
If high blood pressure is a concern for you, try the healthy eating plan known as the DASH Diet. Recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the DASH teaches you how to reduce salt and increase your intake of potassium-rich ingredients and blood-pressure-deflating foods high in calcium, protein and fiber.
Daily aerobic exercise
Conditioning your heart with an activity you enjoy is a great way to reduce high blood pressure, manage your weight, and improve your emotional well-being. Just 20 to 30 minutes of cardio a day is all it takes to keep your heart in good shape.
Life can be stressful at times and too much stress can play a major role in elevating your blood pressure. Try to manage the stress in your life by taking some time for self-care. Adopt relaxation techniques into your routine, like a daily meditation practice to alleviate stress.
Essential hypertension or high blood pressure is known as the silent disease because not many people realize they have it. Besides scheduling regular check-ups with your doctor, there are other ways you can check your blood pressure. Many drug stores have a free-to-use blood pressure cuff on site, or you can download an app for monitoring your BP. It’s best to take several measurements throughout the day, so you get an accurate reading, and allow for fluctuations caused by exercise, stress, pain, and sleep.
Here are the four stages of high blood pressure you need to know:
- Elevated blood pressure = 121-129 / 80 mm Hg or less
- High blood pressure stage 1 = 130-139 / 80-89 mm Hg
- High blood pressure stage 2 = 140+ / 90+ mm Hg
- Hypertensive crisis = 180+ / 120+ mm Hg
You can find more helpful ways to manage essential hypertension in our blog, 6 Tips For Lowering Your Blood Pressure.
1. Circulation 25 Jan 2000: DOI: 10.1161/01.CIR.101.3.329.
- Blog Contributor