Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood flow against the artery walls.
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).
According to the American Heart Association, about 73 million Americans have high blood pressure, but it's estimated that over half of these people do not have their condition under control.
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High blood pressure statistics. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4621 . Accessed June 18, 2009.
12/11/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : He J, Gu D, Chen J, et al. Premature deaths attributable to blood pressure in China: a prospective cohort study. Lancet . 2009;374(9703):1765-72.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 09/11/2012