High Blood Pressure
(Blood Pressure, High; Essential Hypertension; Idiopathic Hypertension; Primary Hypertension)
by Editorial Staff And Contributors
High blood pressure is abnormally high blood pressure with no known cause. Blood pressure measurements are read as two numbers:
High blood pressure is defined as systolic pressure greater than 140 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure greater than 90 mmHg. You are considered prehypertensive if your systolic blood pressure is between 120-139 mmHg, or your diastolic pressure is between 80- 89 mmHg.
High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and blood vessels. Over time, this condition can damage these organs and tissues.
The cause of primary hypertension is not known.
Risk Factors TOP
High blood pressure is more common in men, postmenopausal women, older adults, and people of African American descent.
Factors that may increase your risk of high blood pressure include:
High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms. But, the condition can still damage your organs and tissues.
Occasionally, if blood pressure reaches extreme levels, you may have the following:
High blood pressure is often diagnosed during a doctor's visit. Blood pressure is measured using an arm cuff and a special device. If your reading is high, you will come back for repeat checks. If you have 3 visits with readings over 140/90 mmHG, you will be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Sometimes people become anxious at the doctor's office. This may result in a higher than normal blood pressure reading. You may be asked to measure your blood pressure at home or in another location.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your chest. This can be done with chest x-rays.
Your heart's activity may be measured. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG).
Medications may include:
Note: Untreated high blood pressure can lead to:
To help reduce your risk of getting high blood pressure, take the following steps:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Chobanian AV. Clinical practice. Isolated systolic hypertension in the elderly. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:789-796.
Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, et al. The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on prevention, detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood pressure. The JNC 7 report. JAMA. 2003;289:2560-2572.
High blood pressure or hypertension. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 30, 2014.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Updated June 26, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
What is high blood pressure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 2, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.
9/2/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension: Forman J, Stampfer M, Curhan G. Diet and lifestyle risk factors associated with incident hypertension in women. JAMA. 2009;302(4):401-411.
10/17/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension: National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC). Guideline summary: Hypertension evidence-based nutrition practice guideline. In: National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) [Web site]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2015 Jan 01. [cited 2016 Oct 17]. Available: https://www.guideline.gov. Accessed October 17, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 12/24/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.