Hypertension refers to blood pressure that is higher than usual. The term essential hypertension describes cases of high blood pressure in which the cause is unknown.

A person can take steps to help manage or reduce the likelihood of essential hypertension. Their doctor may also recommend medications.

Read on to learn more about essential hypertension. This article also discusses possible causes, risk factors, treatment options, and more.

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Essential hypertension is a type of high blood pressure where there is no known cause. The condition accounts for most cases of hypertension and typically develops over time as a person gets older.

Some researchers have found that genetic changes may cause essential hypertension. Inherited or acquired genetic changes can increase the risk of this condition.

Studies have also shown that a high salt intake may lead to hypertension.

Certain dietary choices can affect the risk of essential hypertension. For example, eating a diet high in salt can lead to high blood pressure.

Other risk factors may include:

A person can contact their doctor if they have concerns about the risk factors for hypertension. Their doctor can advise on steps they can take to help reduce the risk.

In most cases, essential hypertension does not cause any noticeable symptoms.

If symptoms occur, they can include:

As hypertension does not always cause symptoms, it is best for a person to monitor their blood pressure regularly. Their doctor can advise on how regularly they need to check their blood pressure and also recommend a home blood pressure monitor.

Learn more about high blood pressure symptoms.

Doctors typically divide hypertension into three stages: normal, elevated, and high blood pressure.

The normal stage refers to blood pressure levels under 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). For elevated blood pressure, systolic levels range between 120 mm Hg and 129 mm Hg, but diastolic levels are below 80 mm Hg. Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in the arteries during heartbeats. Diastolic blood pressure measures pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to systolic levels of at least 130 mm Hg. Diastolic levels in this stage are at least 80 mm Hg.

Learn more about blood pressure readings.

To diagnose essential hypertension, doctors need to measure an individual’s blood pressure. They can do this by using an inflatable cuff with a gauge.

After they measure blood pressure, a doctor can use the readings to determine whether levels are high.

If a person has high blood pressure, a doctor may order further tests to determine the underlying cause. If there is no identifiable cause, they may diagnose essential hypertension.

Treatments for essential hypertension include certain medications and lifestyle changes. Medications that can help treat hypertension include:

Lifestyle changes that may help treat hypertension include:

  • getting enough physical activity or exercise
  • limiting caffeine intake
  • avoiding smoking and alcohol, if applicable
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • reducing salt consumption

Researchers have found that the Mediterranean diet may help lower blood pressure. This diet includes whole foods such as nuts, seeds, olives, and fish. Diets rich in magnesium and potassium may also help treat essential hypertension.

Learn more about natural ways to lower blood pressure.

As there is no identifiable cause for essential hypertension, it may not be possible to prevent it.

However, a person can take steps to help reduce the risk. Generally, these are the same lifestyle changes a doctor may recommend for treating essential hypertension, such as getting enough physical activity, maintaining a moderate weight, and consuming a balanced diet.

Without proper treatment, essential hypertension can lead to further health complications. These may include:

A person’s doctor can advise them on managing their blood pressure and reducing the risk of complications.

Most cases of hypertension are essential hypertension, meaning their causes are unclear. In other cases, the condition may have a known cause.

For example, hypertension can develop among individuals with a family history of this condition. Inheriting certain genetic changes may lead to high blood pressure over time. Hypertension can also develop because of kidney disease.

In cases where hypertension is due to an underlying condition, treating the condition can help manage blood pressure.

Learn more about types of hypertension.

Benign essential hypertension is a type of hypertension and another term for essential hypertension.

Essential hypertension is a type of hypertension without a known cause. Individuals may develop high blood pressure with few or no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they can cause facial flushing, dizziness, and spots of blood in the eyes.

A doctor may recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to help a person manage their blood pressure. This can include reducing salt consumption, getting enough regular physical activity, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.

Sometimes, a doctor may also recommend medication to help lower a person’s blood pressure.