Essential and Secondary Hypertension Causes – What is the Difference?

Hypertension is the medicine name for high blood pressure.

Hypertension can cause severe complications, and increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and pose life-threatening problems [1]

Medical guidelines define hypertension as a blood pressure higher than 130 over 80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

Those are guidelines issued by the American Heart Association in 2017.

According to the same organization, more than 85 million people in the US suffer from high blood pressure [2]

The problem with the condition is that the high blood pressure causes are unknown.

There are certain risk factors, but there is not a clear cause of hypertension.

Even though it is a global health concern, causes are still vague.

The World Health Organization, for example, believes that the growth of the processed food industry has increased the number of hypertension cases [3]

With that in mind, let’s talk about high blood pressure causes, prevention, and how to treat it.

Hypertension Causes

The exact cause of hypertension is often not known.

What is worth mentioning is that there are two types of hypertension, essential and secondary.

Both are caused by a different trigger, and both manifest different symptoms.

One in twenty cases of hypertension is caused by an underlying condition or medication [4]

Essential hypertension causes

Statistics show that in as many as 95% of the cases of high blood pressure, the exact cause cannot be found.

This type of hypertension is called “essential”.

And while it is somewhat mysterious, there are certain risk factors that increase the chances of getting essential hypertension.

For example, high blood pressure tends to run in families, and many health experts believe it is a hereditary condition [5]

High blood pressure is also more likely to affect men than women.

Age and race play a role, and in the US, African-American are more likely to get it than white American.

The biggest factor for essential hypertension is diet and lifestyle.

There have been studies linking salt and high blood pressure [6]

It is worth noting that most people with high blood pressure are salt sensitive.

Any amount higher than the minimum daily value is too much for them.

Other essential causes of high blood pressure include obesity, stress, insufficient intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, diabetes, lack of physical activity, and chronic alcohol consumption.

Secondary hypertension

Physicians identify hypertension as secondary when they identify the direct cause of the condition.

Among the known secondary hypertension causes are kidney disease, tumors, and other abnormalities that cause the adrenal glands to secrete excess amount of hormones elevating blood pressure.

Signs of high blood pressure

Having high blood pressure for a short time can be normal in some situations.

For example, intense exercise and acute stress will briefly raise your blood pressure, even in the healthiest person.

Because of that, to diagnose hypertension, doctors need several readings showing high blood pressure over a longer period of time.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the normal ranges and those of a high blood pressure.

You can measure blood pressure with a blood pressure monitor or sphygmomanometer.

Systolic (mmHg) Diastolic (mmHg)
Normal Less than 120 Less than 80
Elevated Between 120 and 129 Less than 80
Stage 1 hypertension Between 130 and 139 Between 80 and 89
Stage 2 hypertension At least 140 At least 90
Hypertensive crisis Over 180 Over 120

If your reading shows a hypertensive crisis, wait 2 or 3 minutes and then repeat.

If the reading is the same, that calls for a medical emergency.

How to reduce high blood pressure naturally?

As mentioned previously, in most cases of high blood pressure, lifestyle and diet are to blame.

Therefore, changes in those areas will help you reduce your high blood pressure.

What are some changes you can implement?

  • Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline [7] As your weight decreases, your blood pressure will go down as well. Losing just 10 pounds can significantly reduce your blood pressure
  • Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes of exercise per day to lower the blood pressure between 4 to 9mmHg [8] If you have prehypertension, which is the condition just before your blood pressure rises, exercise can help you avoid full-blown hypertension
  • Stick to a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products [9] Avoid saturated fat and cholesterol found in processed foods that will raise your blood pressure. The DASH diet, or known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is the best diet you can try [10]
  • Reduce the amount of sodium you consume regularly. Limit sodium intake to 2,300mg per day or less. You can reduce the amount of sodium by eating fewer processed foods and by not adding salt to your dishes
  • Avoid stress, or device a strategy to manage stress in your life properly [11]
  • Cut back on caffeine to reduce blood pressure by as much as 10mmHg
  • Limit alcohol consumption. There are two sides to alcohol. One glass of red wine, for example, is known to reduce blood pressure. However, drinking too much alcohol will raise your blood pressure significantly
  • Quit smoking, as each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for as many minutes after you finish it
  • Drink plenty of water to stay properly hydrated
  • Consume foods rich in potassium to regulate your blood pressure

In some cases, patients have to take medications to control their blood pressure.

That is when the readings show 130 over 80 for a longer period of time.

There is a range of drugs used for treating hypertension like beta-blockers, alpha-blockers, diuretics, central agonists, vasodilators, and much more.

What to eat and what to avoid?

We talked about diet changes, and that is the single most important change for controlling your high blood pressure and preventing hypertension.

You should load up on foods that lower blood pressure like leafy greens (and other foods rich in potassium), berries (rich in flavonoids), red beets, oatmeal, banana, salmon, seeds, seafood high in omega-3 fatty acids, skim milk and yogurt.

As for foods to avoid, stay away from premade soups, frozen meals, canned beans, canned tomato products, packaged meats, processed meats, candy, soft drinks, and pastries.

Should you see a doctor?

Measuring blood pressure is part of the routine checkup at your doctor’s office. If you are 40 years old or older, you should get at least one reading per year.

Teenagers up to 18 years should get one reading every two years.

For those of you that do not regularly see their physician, you can get a free blood pressure screening at a health resource fair.

Are there are complications?

One of the reasons why it is an absolute must to check your blood pressure is because hypertension can cause complications.

Paying attention to high blood pressure and signs can help you prevent some more severe and life-threatening conditions.

Hypertension causes an excessive pressure on your artery walls due to high blood pressure.

This pressure can damage the blood vessels and organs in your body.

The longer you leave it uncontrolled, the greater the damage is.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure a long period of time can cause:

  • Aneurysm, a condition in which your blood vessels weaken and bulge. Ruptured aneurysms are life-threatening
  • Heart attack or stroke, the most common eventual result of uncontrolled hypertension
  • Heart failure, as your heart struggles to pump blood against the higher pressure in the vessels
  • Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys, preventing them from functioning normally and properly
  • Narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eye, resulting in vision loss
  • Trouble with memory or understanding, as the high blood pressure affects your ability to think, learn, and remember
  • Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders

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