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What is Hypertension?

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood flow against the artery walls.

The Cardiovascular System
The Cardiovascular System
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Blood pressure measurements are read as two numbers. The higher number, called the systolic pressure, represents the pressure in the artery when the heart beats. The lower number, called the diastolic pressure, represents the pressure when the heart is at rest. Normal blood pressure is in the range of 120/80. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as systolic pressure greater than 140 and/or diastolic pressure greater than 90. Blood pressure fluctuates throughout each day.

In most cases, the cause of hypertension is unknown. Genetic factors may be involved. In addition, the following conditions may cause...

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop hypertension with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing hypertension. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for hypertension include:

Specific Lifestyle Factors

  • Alcohol use —Drinking alcohol regularly and in large amounts increases blood pressure. This means drinking more than one daily drink for women or two for men.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup Consumption- HFCS has been correlated to several metabolic syndromes, including an increased incidence of hypertension. [Learn...

Hypertension usually does not cause symptoms, and this is why it may go undiagnosed if unchecked. Your organs and tissues can be damaged by high blood pressure without feeling any symptoms.

Occasionally, if blood pressure reaches extreme levels, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness

Hypertension is often diagnosed during a visit to your doctor. Blood pressure is measured using a cuff around your arm and a device called a sphygmomanometer. Your doctor may ask you to sit quietly for five minutes before checking your blood pressure.

Placement of Blood Pressure Cuff
Placement of Blood Pressure Cuff
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

If your blood pressure reading is high, you will probably be asked to come back for repeat blood pressure checks. The diagnosis of high blood pressure may be made if you have three or more readings over 140/90.

Some people’s blood pressure goes up when they are at the doctor’s office. If your doctor suspects that may be occurring, he or she may ask you to get some blood pressure readings at home. In some cases, he or she may recommend that you wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This device...

To help reduce your risk of developing hypertension , follow these guidelines:

  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Avoid heavy alcohol use.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage stress.
  • Monitor use of pain relievers.
  • Consider taking folic acid.

If You Are Overweight, Lose Weight

Losing as little as 10 pounds can help decrease your heart’s workload and lower your blood pressure. Follow the dietary and exercise plans recommended by your doctor. To lose weight, consume fewer calories than you expend. To maintain a healthy weight, balance the number of calories you consume with the number you expend. Try to keep your body mass index (BMI) below 25.

Avoid Heavy Alcohol Use

Drinking too...

American Heart Association


7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231


1-800-AHA-USA-1 (1-800-242-8721)

Internet Address:

Description of services provided:

The American Heart Association provides general information about heart disease, including educational information, news, research, health programs, and dietary information.

American Stroke Association


7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231


1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653 )

Internet Address:

Description of services provided:

The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. The website provides general information about...

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