Hypertension: A Concise Review of the Disease


Hypertension is a condition whereby the blood pressure is gradually elevated to levels that can lead to organ damage. The normal blood pressure level is below 120/80 and levels that are greater than 140/90 constitute hypertension. This condition, leads to such illnesses as heart attacks, renal failures or even strokes, all of which can be fatal. A study by Briganti et al (2003, p.137) indicates that the prevalence of the disease among Australian adults is about 28.6%. This highlights the prevalence of the condition and hence need for a better understanding of the disease so as to effectively combat it. Hypertension can be classified as either primary or secondary owing to the underlying causes of the disease. Scientific studies indicate that appropriate evaluation of the type of hypertension is the first step in dealing with the issue. This paper sets out to give a concise yet enlightening discussion on the causes, effects, consequences and symptoms of hypertension.

Causes of hypertension

The causes of hypertension vary depending on whether it is primary or secondary. Studies observe that primary (essential) hypertension is more prevalent contributing to 90-95% of all cases (Murphy & Lloyd 2006, p.559). Primary hypertension is whereby no single cause can be pinpointed as causing the elevated blood pressure (Mohler &Townsend 2006, p.3). The causes of this type of hypertension are multi-factorial whereby a number of conditions act together in to cause it. Despite the lack of a medical cause for the disease, genetic factors have been seen to play a significant role in essential hypertension. Studies reveal that two thirds of the people suffering from hypertension are under the age of 65 years thereby writing off the commonly held perception that hypertension is as a result of aging. Dietary factors are seen to play a major role in hypertension. Environmental factors such as lead contamination from drinking water also lead to prevalence of hypertension.

In secondary hypertension, an obvious identifiable cause can be determined for the rising blood pressure. Murphy and Lloyd (2006, p.745) concur that there are a number of identifiable causes of secondary hypertension and go on to outline them as follows. Renal artery disease which causes the narrowing of vessel lumen thereby increasing the pressure drop along the artery and primary hyperaldosteronism which causes increased secretion of aldosterone by the adrenals thus leading to potassium loss by kidneys. Emotional stress is also seen to cause stress as it leads to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (Meldon, John & Woolard 2004, p.72). Sleep apnea which is a disorder in which people stop breathing for short durations in their sleep is also seen to cause high blood pressure. Mohler and Townsend also document that certain medications e.g. NSAIDs and Steroids are known to cause hypertension. Owing to the presence of a notable cause, this form of hypertension can be better treated since the cause can be expressly dealt with.

Effects of hypertension and organs affected

One of the core effects of hypertension is the hastened hardening of the arteries in a condition which is characterized by the loss of elasticity and thickening of the vessel walls (Burton, Trivieri & Anderson, 2006, p.9). This results in the narrowing of the passage through which blood is to flow resulting in reduced blood flow and pressure issues. This condition forces the heart to use more pressure so as to pump blood through the narrowed arteries. These results in the enlargement of the heart therefore leading to excessive damage to its muscle tissues; this greatly decreases the efficiency of the heart (Meldon, John & Woolard 2004 p.5).

Hypertension also affects vital body organs such as the kidney and the brain (Mohler & Townsend 2006, p.652). When the kidney is subjected to highly pressurized blood and a reduced flow through the kidneys, the kidney becomes unable to perform its core functions of filtering toxins out of the body. This condition may not be noticeable until it is too late to do anything. It is for this reason that hypertension is known as a silent killer since one cannot trace its presence at an early stage and only does so when the disease is too progressed. Regarding the brain, high blood pressure may lead to swelling of the brain and hence cause a short-circuiting of the complex interconnection of nerves, a condition which may be fatal (Burton, Trivieri & Anderson 2006, p.451). Strokes are also common place exhibitions of high blood pressure especially amongst the aged. This is whereby the arteries are so narrowed such that they rupture and leak into the brain.

While hypertension is viewed to be a universal disease, it does show preference to some ethnic groups. In their study, Frans, Dumais and McInnis (2008, p.1446) noted that hypertension was more common among black people and was further associated with a higher body mass index. This prevalence to people of African descent was observed even after controlling for age and dietary and environmental factors. Owing to the fact that the condition is primarily exhibited in industrialized nations, dietary issues have been stated to play a prominent role

Diagnosis and treatment

Before it reaches high levels, there are no symptoms pointing out to a raising or raised blood level. This makes the condition almost undetectable since some of its common conditions such as headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and nosebleeds can be attributed to a myriad of other diseases (Murphy & Lloyd 2006, p.312). This makes hypertension a “silent death” of sorts since it does not give much of a warning. However, it is proposed that anyone experiencing any of the above symptoms to see their doctor. This is because an early diagnosis of the disease will lead to better ways to recover from it.

Treatment offered for hypertension is always aimed at controlling the heightened blood pressure. Murphy and Lloyd (2006) states that drugs containing calcium are used to retard the blood pressure. The benefits to the patients by these antihypertensive drugs have been widely acknowledged in various studies. Despite hypertension being treatable Briganti et al (2003, p.138) indicates that, a large number of the sufferers go about untreated thus increasing the number of unnecessary deaths due to this condition.


This paper set out to give a concise reflection on hypertension, its causes, effects and symptoms. It has been observed that the condition is prevalent in all age groups and has been seen to affect a relatively large part of the population. The major causes of hypertension have been underscored and owing to the fact that in most cases it are caused by lifestyle issues, a change in lifestyle has been seen to be the most effective measure of dealing with the issue. Checkups by a physician should one exhibit any of the symptoms outlined has been noted to be a prudent measure for dealing with the disease.


Burton G Trivieri, L & Anderson, J W 2002, Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts.

Briganti, E M et al 2003, Untreated hypertension among Australian adults: the 1999–2000 Australian, The Medical Journal of Australia; 179 (3): 135-139.

Frans, H Dumais, J & McInnis, N H et al 2008, Results of the Ontario Survey on the Prevalence and Control of Hypertension, Canadian Medical Association Journal; 178(11): 1441–1449.

Meldon, S John Ma, O, & Woolard R 2004, Geriatric Emergency Medicine, McGraw-Hill Professional.

Mohler, E R & Townsend, R 2006, Advanced Therapy in Hypertension and Vascular Disease, PMPH-USA.

Murphy, J G & Lloyd, M A 2006, Mayo Clinic Cardiology: Concise Textbook, Informa Health Care.

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