Condition in which blood pressure is abnormally high. Over time, it damages the kidneys, brain, eyes, and heart. Hypertension accelerates atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. More common in the elderly and blacks, it usually has no symptoms but can be detected by a routine blood-pressure test. Secondary hypertension, caused by another disorder (most often kidney disease or hormone imbalance), accounts for 10percnt of cases. The other 90percnt have no specific cause (essential hypertension). A low-salt diet, weight loss, smoking cessation, limited alcohol intake, and exercise can prevent or treat hypertension or reduce medication if drug therapy proves necessary. Malignant hypertension, a severe, rapidly progressing form, requires emergency treatment with drugs to dilate the blood vessels.
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