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Blood pressure is the force that blood puts on the blood vessel walls. Blood pressure measurements include 2 numbers:
There is a range of what high blood pressure is. Your doctor will talk to you about what your pressure should be. An example of blood pressure ranges from the American Heart Association (AHA) include:
High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and blood vessels. Over time, it can cause severe damage and illness.
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The body has a number of steps to help keep blood pressure in a healthy range. It is not clear what changes happen that lead to hypertension. Factors that may play a role include:
High blood pressure develops over time. It is most common in older adults, especially postmenopausal women.
Factors that may increase the risk of high blood pressure include:
High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms.
If blood pressure reaches extreme levels, symptoms may include:
High blood pressure is often found during a doctor's visit. Blood pressure is measured using an arm cuff and a special device. If the reading is high, you will come back for repeat checks. High blood pressure will be confirmed after more than 2 readings over more than 2 visits.
A doctor's office can make some people anxious. This can cause higher than normal blood pressure. You may be asked to measure your blood pressure at home or in another location.
Treatment will focus on reducing blood pressure. Improving the blood pressure will help to decrease the stress on important organs. It can also decrease the risk of:
Treatment may need to be adjusted over time. Options may include:
Lifestyle changes may be helpful in reducing blood pressure. It is often the first approach. Recommended steps include:
Medicine may be needed. It may be needed if lifestyle changes were not effective enough. Some medicine options include:
To help reduce the risk of high blood pressure:
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.
High blood pressure or hypertension. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed October 2, 2018.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Updated September 12, 2018. Accessed October 2, 2018.
What is high blood pressure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbp/HBP_WhatIs.html. Updated September 10, 2015. Accessed October 2, 2018.
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: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol 2018 May 15;71(19):e127
9/2/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://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.
1/5/2018 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension: Whelton PK, Carey RM, 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. 2017 Nov 13. [Epub ahead of print].
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD Last Updated: 8/7/2020