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Discovering high blood pressure (hypertension)
Q. Why have I got high blood pressure?
A. For many people there is no specific reason why they have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). It seems to be just one of those things. This type of high blood pressure is called "essential hypertension".
Roughly 90 per cent of people with high blood pressure have essential hypertension. While the exact causes of essential hypertension are unknown, it has been found that family history plays a role, as does our lifestyle, but exactly how is not yet clear.
For the other 10 per cent of people with high blood pressure there may be an underlying cause that can be identified. This type of high blood pressure is called "secondary hypertension".
Because people with secondary hypertension have high blood pressure that is being caused by another condition, it may be that their blood pressure may go back to normal once the other problem has been treated. For example, people can develop high blood pressure due to problems with their kidneys or adrenal glands and treating these problems may return their blood pressure to normal.
There is another category, known as malignant hypertension. This form of high blood pressure is very rare, affecting less than 1 per cent of all people with high blood pressure. The most important thing to know is that, although it is called malignant, it has nothing to do with cancer at all. People with malignant hypertension have extremely high blood pressure which is often due to serious disorders of the kidney or blood vessels. Because the pressure is so high, it can cause serious damage to the body's organs and is treated as a medical emergency. If you are diagnosed with malignant hypertension you will be treated in hospital straightaway.