Prediction, like prevention, is better than cure. That’s why screenings for conditions, such as chronic high blood pressure, are so important. For high blood pressure, or hypertension, it’s even more important, because the causes are unclear. However, there are some known risk factors, including having a family history of the condition, being middle-aged or older, being African-American, smoking, stress, a diet too low in potassium or vitamin D, and a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, what’s called secondary hypertension often accompanies other conditions, such as kidney disease and adrenal gland tumors.
However, some of the most frequently named culprits may not be to blame after all, and may be good for some people. A study at the University of Virginia found that the link between hypertension and salt consumption is most likely overstated. In the study, only 25 percent subjects put on a high-salt diet showed an increase in blood pressure. Perhaps more surprisingly, one in nine subjects developed hypertension from salt restriction. Eggs, too, were vindicated, in a different study that found that a protein in egg white lowered blood pressure in patients.
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of high blood pressure, even when it is extremely elevated. Often the first sign of the condition is headaches, nosebleeds, and dizzy spells when hypertension is severe and has already done a significant amount of harm. Some patients show no indications whatsoever, until the heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or diabetes or precursors come. That’s why it’s important to get regular checkups, including blood pressure testing, and work with your healthcare provider.
High blood pressure does happen in teenagers in some cases, often obese or unfit teens; because it is asymptomatic, it’s possible that the rate in teenagers is underestimated because it’s not often looked for. This has an unusual effect: it makes teenaged patients happier. Teenagers with hypertension were found in a German study to have better grades, higher self-esteem, and more quality of life. Researchers are not sure what might be responsible for this, though it may be as simple as repressing negative emotions leading to both more positive self-reports and hypertension, or high blood pressure itself reducing stress levels.