Prehypertension: Causes and Effects
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated, with readings greater than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg.
What Is Prehypertension?
Stage 1 hypertension is called prehypertension because it is a warning sign that the person may get high blood pressure in the future. High blood pressure is a dangerous condition as it affects the body’s vital organs and can lead to heart attack, strokes, dementia, coronary heart disease and kidney failure. Thus, the diagnosis of prehypertension must be taken seriously as it can lead to hypertension.
As blood pressure tends to fluctuate, prehypertension diagnosis is based upon two or more readings at two or more separate occasions separated by at least one week.
Are There Prehypertension Symptoms?
Just as there are no high blood pressure symptoms, prehypertension also does not have any distinct symptoms at the time of diagnosis and thus may go undetected for a long time. Although some warning signs of high BP such as dizziness, fatigue, headaches may be seen.
What Are Prehypertension Causes?
In more than 90% of cases, high blood pressure develops without any specific cause. But certain factors that increase the pressure in the arteries can cause prehypertension. They include:
- Atherosclerosis – Atherosclerosis is the buildup of deposits such as fats, cholesterol plaque and other substances in and on the artery walls which obstruct blood flow and may lead to high blood pressure.
- Sleep Apnea – Obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep can increase the risk of high blood pressure. In fact, sleep apnea and high blood pressure have both been linked to significantly increased risk for serious complications such as stroke and heart attack.
- Kidney Disease – People with hypertension can develop chronic kidney disease (CKD). The kidney produces a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and any slight increases in blood pressure is harmful to their effective functioning. Doctors now says that even prehypertension can damage the kidneys as in a recent study one out of six people with prehypertension developed CKD.
- Adrenal Disease – Adrenal glands that are situated above the kidneys produce a variety of hormones that regulate blood pressure among other essential functions. Excess production of hormones by the adrenal glands can cause sudden increase in blood pressure or prehypertension.
- Thyroid Disease – The thyroid gland secretes hormones that influence the temperature of the body, developmental growth, metabolism, and blood pressure. If the thyroid gland begins to malfunction in it may cause hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism which may result in sudden spike in blood pressure or prehypertension.
- Medications – Certain medication such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs may also cause blood pressure to rise temporarily.
- Drugs – Illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can result in sudden spike in blood pressure.
Prehypertension by itself doesn’t often have complications but, if untreated or uncontrolled, can worsen and develop into hypertension or high BP.
Doctors use the term prehypertension as a warning sign to patients to make healthy lifestyle adjustments (such as low sodium, high fibre diet, no smoking, no tobacco, very limited alcohol, regular exercise, weight management, etc.) so that the condition does not translate into high blood pressure as HBP can damage your organs and increase the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and dementia.
Also, if patients have some existing medical conditions such as diabetes, that can affect blood pressure, they are advised to take proper medications to prevent an increase in blood pressure.
Note of caution: This article is for information purpose only. Always consult your doctor in case of any blood pressure or other health-related problems.