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Conditions InDepth: Hypertension

Hypertension is known as high blood pressure. Blood pressure (BP) is the measure of force that blood flow makes against the artery walls.
Normal BP is in the range of 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The higher number is called systolic blood pressure (SBP). It’s the pressure in the artery when the heart beats. The lower number is called diastolic blood pressure (DBP). It’s the pressure when the heart is at rest.
  • Blood pressure is higher than normal when the:
    • SBP is 120-129 mmHg and the
    • DBP is 80 mmHg
  • Stage 1:
    • SBP is 130-139 mmHg and/or
    • DBP is 80-89 mmHg
  • Stage 2:
    • SBP is 140 mmHg or higher and/or
    • DBP is 90 mmHg or higher
The Cardiovascular System
The Cardiovascular System
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Blood vessels help blood flow easily from one part of the body to another. This lets blood get to where it’s needed.
High blood pressure is caused by one or more of these:
  • Damage to blood vessel walls
  • Buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis) or blood clots on blood vessel walls
  • Structural problems with the vessels
  • Health problems or medicines that make blood vessels tighten when they should not
  • Lower elasticity of blood vessels—common with aging
These problems make it harder for the heart to push blood throughout the body. This can make the blood flow can more turbulent, raising the pressure on the blood vessel walls.


There are 2 types:
  • Primary—Often happens slowly because of factors listed above.
  • Secondary—Often happens faster. It’s caused by other health problems such as kidney or endocrine disorders, or sleep apnea. Many common types of medicines can also cause this type.
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 doctor?What is it like to live with hypertension?Where can I get more information about hypertension?


High blood pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed October 1, 2018.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated September 12, 2018. Accessed October 1, 2018.
Overview of hypertension. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated February 2018. Accessed October 1, 2018.
What is high blood pressure? American Heart Association website. Available at: Accessed October 1, 2018.
12/11/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance He J, Gu D, Chen J, et al. Premature deaths attributable to blood pressure in China: a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2009;374(9703):1765-1772.
1/5/2018 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Hypertension. 2018;71(6):1269-1324.

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