High blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high.
To survive and function properly, your tissues and organs need the oxygenated blood that your circulatory system carries throughout the body. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped blood vessels, which include arteries, veins and capillaries. This pressure — blood pressure — is the result of two forces: The first force (systolic pressure) occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. The second force (diastolic pressure) is created as the heart rests between heart beats. (These two forces are each represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading)
- An estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30–79 years worldwide have hypertension, most (two-thirds) living in low- and middle-income countries.
- An estimated 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition.
- Less than half of adults (42%) with hypertension are diagnosed and treated.
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults (21%) with hypertension have it under control.
- Hypertension is a major cause of premature death worldwide.
- One of the global targets for noncommunicable diseases is to reduce the prevalence of hypertension by 33% between 2010 and 2030.
Most people with hypertension don’t feel any symptoms. Very high blood pressure can cause headaches, blurred vision, chest pain and other symptoms.
Checking your blood pressure regularly is the best way to know if you have high blood pressure. If hypertension isn’t treated, it can cause other health conditions like kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.
People with very high blood pressure (usually 180/120 or higher) can experience symptoms including:
- severe headaches
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
- blurred vision or other vision changes
- buzzing in the ears
- abnormal heart rhythm
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
The only way to detect hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure. Having blood pressure measured is quick and painless. Although individuals can measure their own blood pressure using automated devices, an evaluation by a health professional is important for assessment of risk and associated conditions.
Lifestyle changes can help lower high blood pressure. These include:
- eating a healthy, low-salt diet
- losing weight
- being physically active
- quitting tobacco
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend one or more medicines. Your recommended blood pressure goal may depend on what other health conditions you have.
Blood pressure goal is less than 130/80 if you have:
- cardiovascular disease (heart disease or stroke)
- diabetes (high blood sugar)
- chronic kidney disease
- high risk for cardiovascular disease
For most people, the goal is to have a blood pressure less than 140/90.
There are several common blood pressure medicines:
- ACE inhibitors relax blood vessels and prevent kidney damage. Examples: enalapril, lisinopril
- Angiotensin-2 receptor blockers (ARBs) relax blood vessels and prevent kidney damage. Examples: losartan and telmisartan
- Calcium channel blockers relax blood vessels. Examples: amlodipine, felodipine
- Diuretics eliminate extra water from the body, lowering blood pressure. Examples: hydrochlorothiazide, chlorthalidone.
Lifestyle changes can help lower high blood pressure and can help anyone with hypertension. Many who make these changes will still need to take medicines.
These lifestyle changes can help prevent and lower high blood pressure.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits
- Be physically active. You can either walk, run, swim, dance or do activities that build strength, like lifting weights
- Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity
- Do strength building exercises 2 or more days each week
- Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
- Take medicines as prescribed by your health care professional
- Keep appointments with your health care professional
- Eat salty food (try to stay under 2 grams per day)
- Eat foods high in saturated or trans fats
- Smoke or use tobacco
- Consume too much alcohol (1 drink daily max for women, 2 for men)
- Skips your medication
Reducing hypertension prevents heart attack, stroke and kidney damage, as well as other health problems? You can reduce the risks of hypertension by…
- Reducing and managing stress
- Regularly checking blood pressure
- Treating high blood pressure
- Managing other medical conditions