Hypertension, or high blood pressure, often occurs with no symptoms. Even when blood pressure is extremely elevated, the first indicator is often a high reading on a blood pressure test at a medical checkup—or worse. Sometimes, patients who have had hypertension for a long time will experience headaches, nosebleeds, and dizzy spells, but in many cases high blood pressure only makes itself known through heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure, or diabetes and prediabetes, coronary and other health problems caused by chronically high blood pressure.
In fact, chronic primary hypertension—not caused by an underlying condition such as kidney disease, thyroid disease, or diabetes—can be fatal if ignored. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure deaths have noticeably risen over the past ten years, and 60 percent of those deaths happen to people younger than 75.
The causes of high blood pressure are varied, and it’s not clear exactly how it happens. Risk factors include being middle-aged or older, being African-American, smoking, stress, not getting enough potassium or other essential nutrients, and a sedentary lifestyle. People with a family history of hypertension are especially at risk. That suggests that susceptibility to high blood pressure is at least partly hereditary.
One cause researchers say contributes to high blood pressure is lack of vitamin D. This vitamin is interesting because, while it can be gotten from food, is also found in sunlight. A study last month found evidence that vitamin D deficiency can cause high blood pressure in people. The patient’s personality is also a factor. Happy thoughts can actually lower the risk of a heart attack and other heart-related complications. Indeed, administering supplemental vitamin D actually helps lower blood pressure. Other ways to get blood pressure down include maintaining a healthy body weight, getting plenty of exercise through such activities as brisk walking, drinking in moderation if at all, and eating a diet low in salt but with plenty of fruits and vegetables.