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Are there health risks associated with benign hypertension?

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Quick Answer

Benign hypertension is a misnomer for primary hypertension, or high blood pressure, according to MDGuidelines. Although primary hypertension often does not cause symptoms in its early years, it is a "silent killer" due to subtle, progressing effects. These begin with headaches, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, chest pain and shortness of breath. Over time, sufferers experience brain, eye, heart and kidney damage and may eventually experience kidney and heart failure as well as a stroke or heart attack.

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Are there health risks associated with benign hypertension?
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Full Answer

Primary hypertension, as opposed to secondary hypertension, occurs on its own rather than as a result of an underlying disorder, such as kidney disease or as a medication side effect, explains MDGuidelines. Doctors no longer use the term "benign hypertension" to describe it due to its serious complications. Lifestyle factors including obesity, smoking habits, poor diet and lack of exercise exacerbate hypertension. High blood pressure damages arteries, causing their walls to harden and lose elasticity. This thickening enlarges the heart and creates the potential for heart disease.

While there is no direct cure for primary hypertension, it is a manageable affliction, notes MDGuidelines. To maintain their health, patients normally must maintain body mass indexes below 25, exercise for at least 30 minutes each day, limit alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day, minimize non-essential pain medication, and follow a series of dietary changes. A hypertension-friendly diet is typically low in saturated fat and cholesterol content; limits protein from meat and, to a lesser extent, other sources; contains large portions of whole grains, fruits and vegetables; and includes lots of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Individuals should also limit their sodium consumption.

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