May also be called: Primary Hypertension; Essential Hypertension; Idiopathic Hypertension; High Blood Pressure
Primary hypertension (hy-pur-TEN-shun) is high blood pressure with no known cause.
Blood pressure is the pressure the blood forces against the blood vessel walls as the heart pumps. When someone has high blood pressure, the heart and arteries have a much heavier workload. The heart must pump harder and the arteries are under greater strain as they carry blood.
Having high blood pressure puts someone at a higher risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, loss of vision, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
There are two types of high blood pressure, or hypertension:
Treatment for primary hypertension usually begins with lifestyle changes, including weight loss, regular exercise, reducing salt intake, and avoiding alcohol. If lifestyle changes alone aren't enough, a doctor may recommend medications to lower blood pressure. This type of treatment is usually reserved for severe cases of hypertension or those that cause symptoms such as headaches or seizures.
Untreated high blood pressure can eventually damage the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. But if it's caught early, monitored, and treated, those who have it can lead active, normal lives.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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