Hypertension is often called the "silent killer" because symptoms of high blood pressure do not appear for years until a vital organ is threatened. Signs of long-untreated high blood pressure (such as headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, restlessness and blurred vision) can be the result of damage to the brain, eyes, heart and kidneys.
Causes and Risk Factors
For most, the causes of high blood pressure are not known. Researchers believe several factors together may create higher pressure in the arteries. In some cases, diseases cause blood pressure to increase. These include:
- Arteriosclerosis, which makes arteries stiff and unable to widen in response to rising blood pressure
- Cushing's syndrome, which involves an overactive thyroid gland or a tumor in an adrenal gland
- Kidney diseases or injury
The risk of high blood pressure is greater for those who are:
- A smoker
- African American. An estimated 32% of African Americans (compared with 23% of Caucasians and 23% of Mexican Americans) have high blood pressure.
- Older. About 75% of women and almost 66% of men aged 75 or older have high blood pressure. (Only about 25% of people between the ages of 20 and 74 have high blood pressure.)
- Overweight. High blood pressure occurs twice as often in people who are obese as it does in people who are not.
- Under stress