Condition in which blood pressure is abnormally low. It may result from reduced blood volume (e.g., from heavy bleeding or plasma loss after severe burns) or increased blood-vessel capacity (e.g., in syncope). Orthostatic hypotension—drop in blood pressure on standing—results from failure of the reflexes that contract muscles and constrict blood vessels in the legs to offset gravity as one rises. Hypotension is also a factor in poliomyelitis, shock, and barbiturate poisoning.
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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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Force originating when the heart's pumping pushes the blood against the walls of the blood vessels. Their stretching and contraction help maintain blood flow. Usually measured over an arm or leg artery in humans, blood pressure is expressed as two numbers; normal adult blood pressure is about 120/80 mm of mercury. The higher number (systolic) is measured when the heart's ventricles contract and the lower (diastolic) when they relax. Seealso hypertension, hypotension.
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