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Hypertension or high blood pressure is seldom detected early on in the course of the disease because the condition is usually free of symptoms. Hypertension is therefore often called the "silent killer." By time symptoms do arise, it is usually because the blood pressure has become high enough to cause damage to organs such as the kidneys or eyes. In many cases, high blood pressure is detected by chance on a routine visit to the doctor or other healthcare professional for unrelated reasons.
Several lifestyle factors can be modified to reduce the likelihood of hypertension and its complications developing. Some examples include:
There is a wide range of medications that are useful in lowering blood pressure. While some of these are diuretics, which increase urine output and decrease blood volume, others relax the heart and smooth muscle of the blood vessels causing them to widen, allowing blood to pass through more easily. This reduces the blood pressure.
Most people begin treatment by taking a single drug for a few weeks and if the blood pressure is not brought under control, the dose may be increased or a drug with a different mechanism of action may be added to the treatment regimen. In some patients, drugs for hypertension may be stopped after a few months or years of treatment if the blood pressure is brought under control, but in most cases, the medications need to be continued for life.