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What is the Epidemiology of Hypertension?

The exact epidemiology of hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is not known because no single variable has been identified as the primary cause. Hypertension occurs when pressure of the blood on the arterial walls is stronger than optimal. In addition, hypertension can be a contributing factor in the development of heart disease and stroke. Although the epidemiology of hypertension does not point to one specific cause, there are contributing risk factors. Typically, hypertension is asymptomatic, however, as elevations in blood pressure become extreme, symptoms can include headache, dizziness, and weakness.

Because the epidemiology of hypertension in enigmatic, it is fortunate that risk factors can be identified and treated to prevent this condition, also known as the "silent killer." One prominent risk factor for hypertension is obesity. Typically, too many calories, particularly from fats and sugars, may promote low-grade inflammation, which alters the ability of the blood vessel cells to operate optimally. Over a period of time, this stress can diminish the ability of the blood vessels to dilate, or open maximally, causing high blood pressure. As researchers gain a better insight to the epidemiology of hypertension, pharmacological treatments that produce fewer side effects than ones presently used may become more available.

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Typically, when blood vessels constrict, blood pressure rises. Smoking promotes this process, known as vasoconstriction. The nicotine in cigarettes is a potent vessel constrictor that can contribute to hypertension and coronary artery disease. Generally, smokers have a higher incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease, so every effort should be made to quit smoking. Commonly, as soon as the smoker quits, he will usually begin to feel better, and the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart disease will diminish as well.

Because the epidemiology of hypertension does not point to one single component, efforts need to be made to modify lifestyles and habits. For example, consuming alcoholic beverages may play a part in the development of high blood pressure. Although moderate drinking may be beneficial to heart health, heavy consumption of alcohol is not. Health care providers should help their patients modify their drinking habits and reduce their blood pressure.

Generally, family history and advancing age are unmodifiable risk factors. One should not worry, however, about these factors that are out of a person's control. Instead, work on lifestyle changes as they relate to diet, weight, and habits such as smoking and drinking to reduce blood pressure through healthy living.

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