High blood pressure (hypertension) damages the arteries and facilitates the development of illnesses. The consequences of high blood pressure can be heart attack, stroke or circulatory disorders in the kidneys or the legs. However, high blood pressure does not usually cause any symptoms over the long term. This is why the disease is also known as the "silent killer".
Blood pressure is the pressure with which the blood is pressed through the arteries of the body. The pressure during one heart attack is higher than the pressure during two heart beats. Therefore, it is known as upper (systolic) and lower (diastolic) blood pressure. Increased blood pressure exists if the systolic pressure is more than 140 mmHg and the diastolic over 90 mmHg
It is estimated that every fourth adult in Switzerland has raised blood pressure (hypertension). However, around a third are not aware of it as high blood pressure does not cause any symptoms over the long term. Therefore, every adult should have their blood pressure measured at least once a year. It is important to recognise raised blood pressure as early as possible to prevent devastating consequences. Raised blood pressure facilitates the development of arteriosclerosis. Diseases such as angina pectoris, cerebral infarction, stroke, dementia, renal insufficiency or circulatory disorder can develop in the legs.
Certain circulatory diseases or occlusion of the renal arteries can cause high blood pressure. In this case, this is known as secondary hypertension. The exact cause of the most common form of high blood pressure, known as essential hypertension, is largely unknown. However, some risk factors are known to be associated with hypertension. They include family predisposition, smoking, chronic stress, lack of exercise, advanced age, alcohol consumption, salty or fatty foot and diabetes.
Several blood pressure measurements are required to diagnose high blood pressure. Ideally this is done with a blood pressure measurement device which is worn for over 24 hours. The patient's blood and urine is also examined. In this way, doctors can determine whether they have essential or secondary hypertension.
The first step in the case of raised blood pressure is to adjust the patient's life style. That means avoiding risk factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, salty and fatty food. Mildly raised blood pressure can already be brought under control in this way. If this is not possible or the patient has severely raised blood pressure values, medical treatment is essential. There is a myriad of different medication available to help lower blood pressure. Sometimes a combination of several medications is required to successfully do so.
Existing damage to the arteries such as occlusion or blockages can be surgically treated. More information on the different options is available in the endartectomy, coronary artery surgery and balloon dilation sections.
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