What Causes Hypertension or High Blood Pressure?
What causes hypertension, also known as high blood pressure?
In recent years, the prevention and treatment of hypertension has been gaining increasing attention. Often, this condition goes undiagnosed until it has progressed such that it causes a comparatively severe incident or condition, and is indeed a major contributing factor to the leading cause of death for adults in the US: heart disease (according to the CDC).
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A note about What Causes Hypertension or High Blood Pressure?
In natural health and healing, we believe in holistic health and healing, as we realize that different parts of the human body are highly interlinked, often beyond Man's understanding. We also believe that the body has the ability to heal itself of any disease, even supposedly incurable diseases.
In order to do so, the body needs the support of some basic dietary and lifestyle good health habits, such as a full body detox and a proper understanding and application of nutrition. No matter how remote or unrelated a health condition may seem, these fundamental health steps will greatly magnify the effects and benefits of any of our health-promoting efforts, including the use of specific natural health remedies.
Though hypertension is irrefutably a serious health issue, it is also one that is somewhat misunderstood within the general public, and developing an understanding of the causes of this condition is an important facet of lowering one's risk for hypertensive issues.
Because the American health system is in many ways primarily focused upon alleviating symptoms, often the treatment for hypertension consists of medication, when it would be far more productive and useful to treat hypertension in a natural and holistic way. Learning about what causes hypertension and the simple habits that can decrease your risk is an easy way to lower your risk of this incredibly serious condition right now.
Before proceeding further, it is important to note that, from a biological / medical perspective, the exact underlying causes of (essential) hypertension are unknown. Essential hypertension, as opposed to secondary hypertension (elevated blood pressure due to a known underlying cause), accounts for approximately 9 out of 10 cases of hypertension.
Although we do not yet understand the physiology behind essential hypertension (henceforth referred to as "hypertension"), there are a number of lifestyle factors that tend to be consistent in a significant percentage of those suffering from it. Thus, the "causes" of hypertension that we shall discuss are factors that are known to be present in hypertensive people and therefore the knowledge of these contributing factors can lower the risk of hypertension, but not necessarily eliminate this risk completely (since we do not yet have the knowledge for this).
What Causes Hypertension - Salt
What causes hypertension? Numerous studies have shown that hypertension only develops in populations that have a relatively high intake of salt. A (statistically) high sodium intake is considered to be that which exceeds 5.8 grams daily. Salt intake has been implicated in high blood pressure that occurs with advancing age, as well as that associated with obesity, an African American background, heredity, and renal inefficiency, or improper kidney function.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that healthy 19 to 50-year-old adults consume a maximum of 3.8 grams of salt each day. Because of the role of sodium within the body, excessive salt intake causes a variety of physiological reactions that range from vasoconstriction (constriction of the blood vessels) to kidney stress to dehydration (which also has a number of negative physiological effects.)
Many people are familiar with the notion that salt is a major component of a healthy diet, but the extent of its effects are often misunderstood, and it is imperative to realize that sodium has widespread and dramatic effects on many aspects of the internal environment. Indeed, excessive salt intake is a big part of what causes hypertension.
What Causes Hypertension - Genes
Although the specific genes that contribute to high blood pressure have not yet been isolated, it is known that genetic factors contribute to approximately 3 in 10 cases of hypertension. Aside from the qualitative genetic predispositions that put individuals at an increased risk for hypertension, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system is thought to be implicated in the development of hypertensive conditions in the body, and current research is focused upon genetic influencers of this cascade.
Moreover, in the United States, hypertension is far more prevalent amongst African Americans than Caucasians or Asians. Further evidence of the genetic basis of hypertension is the fact that children of people with the condition are twice as likely to suffer from it themselves.
However, it is also possible to look at this issue of what causes hypertension from another angle - people from the same culture or the same family tend to have similar lifestyle and dietary habits, so it may not be genes which are the main culprit, after all.
What Causes Hypertension - a Technical Discussion
The primary cause of hypertension is an increased resistance in the peripheral arteries, that is, the blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood to areas most distant from the heart. Complexities presented by the vascular systems' interactions with every part of the body have made it difficult to pinpoint the reason for this, but increased resistance in these blood vessels is most often found in individuals who have a genetic predisposition (close family members with hypertension), and people who have issues with obesity, a lack of exercise, over-consumption of salt, and hypertension that is associated with aging. Again, let us bear in mind that family members tend to share similar eating and living habits.
What causes hypertension? Inflammation has also been implicated in hypertension, not only due to its association with arteriosclerosis, but also because the presence of an elevated C reactive protein level (a blood test marker of inflammation) is a predictor of the development of hypertension. Factors that contribute to inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels are also things that contribute to hypertension, such as excessive cholesterol intake, excessive saturated fat intake, excessive sodium intake, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Although we have not yet discovered the precise origins of hypertension or high blood pressure, there is a fair amount of knowledge supporting the notion that a healthy diet and lifestyle diminish the risk of developing this condition. It is important to learn the qualities that underlie hypertension and to take care to avoid these circumstances in one's life, as hypertension is associated with several of the primary causes of death in adults.
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