Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

         Basic Facts

  • Blood pressure is pressure of the blood in the arteries. Blood that enters and flows through arteries easily results in normal blood pressure. When the heart faces resistance and it must work harder to pump blood through the body, high blood pressure results. 
  • Hypertension is high blood pressure that persists over time.
  • More Americans visit their physician for the management of hypertension than for any other disease-specific reason.
  • People with hypertension are more likely to develop coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure, and are more likely to have a stroke.

Blood pressure is determined by how much blood the heart pumps and the resistance of artery walls to the blood. 

A blood pressure reading uses two numbers that represent the two phases of the heartbeat. The systolic reading corresponds to blood pressure when the heart contracts; the diastolic reading corresponds to blood pressure when the heart relaxes. 

In November 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association updated blood pressure guidelines with the hope of better outcomes for people at risk or living with hypertension.

Normal blood pressure is less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic, expressed as 120 over 80 (for example 120/80). Patients with a blood pressure between 130-139/80-90 mm Hg have "stage 1" high blood pressure, according to the updated guidelines. A person has "stage 2" hypertension if his or her blood pressure is consistently 140 over 90 mm Hg or higher. See chart below.

Updated hypertension guidelines

To learn more about the new hypertension guidelines:

Hypertension can accelerate atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol and fat (plaque) on the artery walls. Because hypertension affects the arterial system in this way, it can contribute to various conditions, including: 

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Angina pectoris (chest pain)
  • Blurred vision and blindness

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) FAQ