Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” because symptoms often do not appear until a vital organ is threatened, which can take years.
Symptoms of high blood pressure that has gone untreated for a long time include:
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
Causes and Risk Factors
In most cases, 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
- Adrenal causes of hypertension (e.g., hormone-producing tumors)
- Kidney disease or injury
The risk of high blood pressure is greater for those who are smokers, older than 75, overweight, sedentary or under stress.
Hypertension affects African Americans at higher rates and often develops at an earlier age than it does in Caucasians or Latinos. African Americans also experience higher rates of hypertension’s most serious complications, such as stroke and heart attack.