Systemic hypertension is the elevation of arterial blood pressure in the vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the body. Commonly referred to simply as hypertension, elevated blood pressure adversely affects cardiovascular function and can jeopardize heart health. Individuals diagnosed with this condition are generally prescribed medication and advised to make dietary and lifestyle changes to lower their blood pressure.
Hypertension develops when cardiovascular blood circulation becomes impaired by arterial narrowing. The constricted blood flow necessitates increased pressure within the heart to usher blood through its chambers. Systemic hypertension is associated with the right-sided cardiovascular system and those vessels that deliver freshly oxygenated blood throughout the body.
It is not uncommon for systemic arterial hypertension to remain undiagnosed for years since many people remain asymptomatic, meaning they experience no signs that anything is wrong. Most preliminary diagnoses are made following consistently high blood pressure readings over a period of time. If systemic hypertension is suspected, a battery of diagnostic tests, including an electrocardiogram (ECG), may be administered to further evaluate one’s cardiovascular function and confirm a diagnosis.
Symptoms of hypertension are generally proportional to the severity of one’s condition. As arterial pressure increases, so does symptom prominence and intensity. Initial signs of systemic hypertension can include a persistent, dull headache, confusion and episodic dizziness. When other system functions become affected, additional symptoms may include pronounced fatigue, impaired vision and malaise. If symptoms are ignored, one’s chances for complications increase significantly, including stroke, blindness and heart failure.
Aside from existing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, several factors can affect one’s chances for developing systemic hypertension over the long term. Prolonged physical inactivity, often accompanied by obesity, consuming a diet deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, and a familial history of high blood pressure are frequently considered risk factors for this chronic condition. Additional contributory factors include smoking and excessive alcohol use.
Treatment for systemic hypertension is generally dependent on the condition's origin. Those cases that stem from a secondary condition necessitate treatment for the existing condition first. Once the underlying condition is treated, dietary and lifestyle changes may suffice.
Persistent or primary cases of hypertension are generally treated with medication. Depending on the severity of one’s condition, a variety of drugs may be used to stabilize blood pressure. In most cases, beta and calcium channel blockers are prescribed to ease the stress placed on the heart muscle and reduce arterial constriction. Other drugs may be used to flush the body of unnecessary fluids and minimize the risk for additional arterial narrowing.