Conditions InDepth: 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

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, 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 hypertension: narrowing of the arteries, excess fluid in the blood, stronger than normal heartbeats, certain medications, or disorders of the kidneys, nervous system, or endocrine system (hormones).

Anatomy of the Heart

Heartbeat: Anatomy of the Heart

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Over time, high blood pressure can damage organs and tissues. It also increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure, and it seems to contribute to hardening of the arteries.

About 65 million American adults have high blood pressure, but about 30% of these people do not know it. Of these individuals with high blood pressure, about 25% are on medication without good control of their blood pressure, about 11% aren’t on any medication, and only about 34% of hypertensive people are taking medication and have good control of their blood pressure.

What are the risk factors for hypertension?
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
How is hypertension diagnosed?
What are the treatments for hypertension?
Are there screening tests for hypertension?
How can I reduce my risk of hypertension?
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
What is it like to live with hypertension?
Where can I get more information about hypertension?


American Heart Association website. Available at: .

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: .

Last reviewed February 2007 by Elie Edmond Rebeiz, MD, FACS

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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