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Conditions InDepth: Hypertension
by Debra Wood, RN and Michael Jubinville, MPH
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the measure of force that blood flow creates against the artery walls. High blood pressure is when this pressure is higher than expected.
Normal blood pressure is in the range of 120/80 mmHg. The higher number, called the systolic, represents the pressure in the artery when the heart beats. The lower number, called the diastolic, represents the pressure when the heart is at rest. Hypertension is defined as regular systolic pressure greater than 140 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure greater than 90 mmHg.
There are 2 main types of hypertension:
The blood vessels throughout the body are designed to help blood flow smoothly, direct blood flow where necessary, and help to manage blood pressure. High blood pressure may occur because of one or more of the following:
These conditions make it harder for the heart to push blood throughout the body. The heart has to push harder for each heart beat and the blood flow can become more turbulent, which both increase pressure on the blood vessel walls.
Primary blood pressure often develops over time because of a combination of these factors.
Secondary hypertension on the other hand, usually develops more quickly and is caused by other health conditions, such as kidney or endocrine disorders, or sleep apnea. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can also cause secondary hypertension.
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?
About high blood pressure. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 12, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2016.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Updated August 29, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2016.
What is high blood pressure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 10, 2015. Accessed September 20, 2016.
Zieman SJ, Melenovsky V, Kass DA. Mechanisms, pathophysiology, and therapy of arterial stiffness. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2005;25(5):932-943.
12/11/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension: 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.
Last reviewed September 2017 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 11/20/2017
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