• High Blood Pressure

    (Blood Pressure, High; Essential Hypertension; Idiopathic Hypertension; Primary Hypertension)


    High blood pressure is abnormally high blood pressure with no known cause. Blood pressure measurements are read as two numbers:
    • Systolic pressure: higher number, normal reading is 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or less
    • Diastolic pressure: lower number, normal reading is 80 mmHg or less
    High blood pressure is defined as systolic pressure greater than 140 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure greater than 90 mmHg. You are considered prehypertensive if your systolic blood pressure is between 120-139 mmHg, or your diastolic pressure is between 80- 89 mmHg.
    High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and blood vessels. Over time, this condition can damage these organs and tissues.
    Organs Impacted by High Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure and organs
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The cause of primary hypertension is not known.

    Risk Factors

    High blood pressure is more common in men, postmenopausal women, older adults, and people of African American descent.
    Factors that may increase your risk of high blood pressure include:
    • Overweight
    • Heavy drinking of alcohol
    • Smoking
    • Use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Family history
    • Kidney disease
    • Diabetes
    • High-fat, high-salt diet
    • Stress


    High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms. But, the condition can still damage your organs and tissues.
    Occasionally, if blood pressure reaches extreme levels, you may have the following:
    • Headache
    • Blurry or double vision
    • Abdominal pain
    • Chest pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Lightheadedness


    High blood pressure is often diagnosed during a doctor's visit. Blood pressure is measured using an arm cuff and a special device. If your reading is high, you will come back for repeat checks. If you have 3 visits with readings over 140/90 mmHG, you will be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
    Sometimes people become anxious at the doctor's office. This may result in a higher than normal blood pressure reading. You may be asked to measure your blood pressure at home or in another location.
    Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests
    Images may be taken of your chest. This can be done with chest x-rays.
    Your heart's activity may be measured. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG).


    Lifestyle Changes

    • Maintain a healthy weight .
    • Begin a safe exercise program with the advice of your doctor.
    • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit .
    • Eat a healthful diet , one that is low fat, low salt, and rich in fiber , fruits, and vegetables. Your doctor may recommend the DASH diet , which is designed to reduce blood pressure. You may be referred to a dietitian for help with meal planning.
    • Drink alcohol in moderation. Moderate is two or fewer drinks per day for men and one or fewer drinks per day for women and older adults.
    • Manage stress .


    Medications may include:
    • Diuretics
    • Beta blockers
    • Calcium channel blockers
    • Angiotensin receptor blockers
    • Aldosterone blockers
    • Alpha blockers
    • Alpha-beta blockers
    • Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)
    • Nervous system inhibitors
    • Vasodilators
    Note: Untreated high blood pressure can lead to:
    If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, follow your doctor's instructions.


    To help reduce your risk of getting high blood pressure, take the following steps:
    • Eat a well-balanced diet. The DASH diet —rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, and low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol—may help keep your blood pressure in the healthy range.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit .
    • Drink alcohol in moderation. Moderate is two or fewer drinks per day for men and one or fewer drinks per day for women and older adults.


    American Heart Association http://www.americanheart.org

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov


    Canadian Cardiovascular Society http://www.ccs.ca

    Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://www.heartandstroke.com


    Chobanian AV. Clinical practice. Isolated systolic hypertension in the elderly. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:789-796.

    Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, et al. The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on prevention, detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood pressure. The JNC 7 report. JAMA. 2003;289:2560-2572.

    High blood pressure or hypertension. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension%5FUCM%5F002020%5FSubHomePage.jsp. Accessed September 30, 2014.

    Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Updated June 26, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.

    What is high blood pressure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbp/HBP%5FWhatIs.html. Updated August 2, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.

    9/2/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://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.

    10/17/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension: National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC). Guideline summary: Hypertension evidence-based nutrition practice guideline. In: National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) [Web site]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2015 Jan 01. [cited 2016 Oct 17]. Available: https://www.guideline.gov. Accessed October 17, 2016.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.