High blood pressure (hypertension)

Chest | Cardiology | High blood pressure (hypertension) (Disease)


Hypertension is the term used to describe high blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. Blood pressure readings are usually given as two numbers - for example, 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg). One or both of these numbers can be too high.

Causes and Risk factors

Many factors can affect blood pressure, including: the quantity of water and salt in the body, the condition of kidneys, nervous system, or blood vessels, the levels of different body hormones.

A person is more likely to have high blood pressure as he or she gets older. This is because the blood vessels become stiffer with the age. When that happens, the blood pressure goes up. High blood pressure increases the chance of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, and early death.

Hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attacks), heart failure, aneurysms of the arteries (e. g. aortic aneurysm), peripheral arterial disease and is a cause of chronic kidney disease. Even moderate elevation of arterial blood pressure is associated with a shortened life expectancy.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Dietary and lifestyle changes can improve blood pressure control and decrease the risk of associated health complications, although drug treatment is often necessary in people for whom lifestyle changes prove ineffective or insufficient. Hypertension is rarely accompanied by any symptoms, and its identification is usually through screening, or when seeking healthcare for an unrelated problem. A proportion of people with high blood pressure reports headaches (particularly at the back of the head and in the morning), as well as lightheadedness, vertigo, tinnitus (buzzing or hissing in the ears), altered vision or fainting episodes.

Poorly controlled high blood pressure ultimately can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye, thickening of the heart muscle and heart attacks, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), kidney failure, and strokes. Most antihypertensive medications can be used alone or in combination. Some are preferred over others in certain specific medical situations. ...