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More than fifty million Americans suffer from hypertension. Two thirds of them are under the age of sixty-five. A disease often without symptoms, many people never realize they are suffering until after they have experienced a heart attack or stroke. Hypertension has been called ‘the silent killer' because it often goes undetected until a major organ is damaged.

Long term effects of this disease can cause serious damage to the heart, kidneys and brain. Hypertension may lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, coronary heart disease and damage to the kidneys resulting in failure. Enlargements of the heart or irregular heart-rates are also possible complications.

Hypertension is defined as a blood pressure of more than 140/90 maintained over a long period of time. A reading of 120/80 is considered to be the "normal" range.

The general symptoms that may appear with hypertension are usually noticed after the disease process is well established. These may include headache, chest pain, blurred vision, fatigue and dizziness. In rare cases insomnia and restlessness have also been noted. The main symptom is an elevated blood pressure.

Certain people are more likely to develop hypertension than others. Women who take contraceptives and/or are post- menopausal are at a higher risk. Individuals who have a family history of the disease, diabetics and those with kidney failure or gout are also in this category. African Americans are another high risk group. Thirty-eight percent of adult African Americans have high blood pressure compared to the 29 percent of adult Caucasians that are diagnosed. Some of the other contributing factors include smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake.

Treatment of hypertension is based upon the seriousness of the condition and whether or not there is an underlying disease process. Underlying conditions would naturally be treated first. Medication, diet and life style changes are helpful in controlling this serious ailment.

Many different types of medication can be used to treat high blood pressure. Very often individuals are treated with multiple medications. A physician considers his clients' overall health and medical history before determining a treatment plan that is best for that individual.

Proper diet, exercise and weight maintenance are contributing factors to the prevention and control of high blood pressure. This requires some life style changes for most people. It is important to stop smoking, avoid excessive use of alcohol and reduce the sodium (table salt) intake in your diet as well as reducing fat and cholesterol.

For most people controlling hypertension may be as simple as following a treatment plan prescribed by their physician and monitoring their blood pressure routinely. Many communities have specific days that you can have your blood pressure checked as a community service. This is done at malls and local pharmacies. It only takes a few minutes and you'll walk away feeling just a bit safer. Encourage family and friends to take advantage of these community services also.

It is estimated in the Unites States only two out of three cases of hypertension are diagnosed. Out of those diagnosed cases about 75 percent receive drug therapy and of the treated cases only 45 percent are being treated adequately. Prevention is the key here. It's a matter of being aware and having your blood pressure screened routinely.