Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a medical condition characterized by elevated or abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps it throughout the body. It is typically measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and expressed as two numbers:

  1. Systolic Pressure: The higher number, representing the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats or contracts.
  2. Diastolic Pressure: The lower number, represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between beats.

How to understand high blood pressure readings

Two numbers create a blood pressure reading. Systolic pressure (top number) indicates the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and pumps out blood. Diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the reading of the pressure in your arteries between beats of your heart.

Blood Pressure ranges


Five categories define blood pressure readings for adults:

  • Healthy: A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
  • Elevated: The systolic number is between 120 and 129 mm Hg, and the diastolic number is less than 80 mm Hg. Doctors usually don’t treat elevated blood pressure with medication. Instead, your doctor may encourage lifestyle changes to help lower your numbers.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: The systolic number is between 130 and 139 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: The systolic number is 140 mm Hg or higher, or the diastolic number is 90 mm Hg or higher.
  • Hypertensive crisis: The systolic number is over 180 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is over 120 mm Hg. Blood pressure in this range requires urgent medical attention. If any symptoms like chest pain, headache, shortness of breath, or visual changes occur when blood pressure is this high, medical care in the emergency room is needed.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

Common symptoms and signs of severe hypertension may include:

  1. Headaches: Severe headaches, often described as pulsating, can occur when blood pressure is extremely high.
  2. Vision Problems: High blood pressure can cause vision disturbances, such as blurry vision, double vision, or even vision loss in some cases.
  3. Chest Pain: Severe hypertension may lead to chest pain or discomfort, which can be a sign of heart-related issues.
  4. Shortness of Breath: Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath can occur during hypertensive crises.
  5. Dizziness or Lightheadedness: Some individuals with very high blood pressure may experience dizziness or a feeling of lightheadedness.
  6. Nosebleeds: Occasionally, severe hypertension can cause nosebleeds, but this is not a common symptom.

It’s important to note that these symptoms are more likely to occur in cases of severely elevated blood pressure. In most cases of hypertension, especially in the early stages, there are no noticeable symptoms. This is why regular blood pressure checks are essential for early detection and management.

What are the causes of high blood pressure?

Some of the common causes and risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  1. Genetics: Family history of hypertension can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. If your parents or close relatives have high blood pressure, you may be genetically predisposed to it.
  2. Age: Blood pressure tends to increase with age. This is primarily due to the stiffening of arteries and changes in the cardiovascular system that occur over time.
  3. Lifestyle factors: Unhealthy lifestyle choices can significantly contribute to high blood pressure. These include:
    • Diet: Consuming too much salt (sodium) and too little potassium can lead to high blood pressure. A diet high in processed foods, fast food, and excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute.
    • Physical inactivity: Lack of regular exercise can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of hypertension.
    • Smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels and can raise blood pressure.
    • Stress: Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure, although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood.
  4. Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the strain on your heart and can raise blood pressure.
  5. Medical conditions: Certain underlying medical conditions can contribute to high blood pressure. These include:
    • Kidney disease: Kidney problems can disrupt the body’s fluid balance and lead to hypertension.
    • Hormonal disorders: Conditions like hyperthyroidism or Cushing’s syndrome can increase blood pressure.
    • Sleep apnea: People with sleep apnea often have higher blood pressure, possibly due to disrupted breathing patterns during sleep.
  6. Medications: Some medications, such as birth control pills, decongestants, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can temporarily increase blood pressure. It’s important to discuss these effects with your healthcare provider.
  7. Chronic conditions: Conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol can increase the risk of hypertension.
  8. Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure.
  9. Sodium intake: High sodium intake, often from a diet high in processed foods, can cause the body to retain water and increase blood pressure.
  10. Race and ethnicity: Hypertension rates vary among different racial and ethnic groups. For example, African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure and experience complications from it.
  11. Gender: Men tend to develop high blood pressure earlier in life than women, although the risk increases for women after menopause.

Treatment options for high blood pressure

The specific treatment plan may vary depending on the severity of hypertension and individual health factors. Here are the primary treatment options for high blood pressure:

  1. Lifestyle Modifications:

    a. Dietary Changes: Adopting a heart-healthy diet can help lower blood pressure. This includes:

    • Reducing sodium (salt) intake: Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
    • Increasing potassium-rich foods: Potassium can counteract the effects of sodium. Foods like bananas, spinach, and potatoes are good sources.
    • Adopting the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.

    b. Weight Management: Losing weight if overweight or obese can significantly lower blood pressure. Even modest weight loss can have a positive impact.

    c. Physical Activity: Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week.

    d. Limit Alcohol: Limit alcohol consumption, as excessive drinking can raise blood pressure. It’s generally recommended to limit alcohol to moderate levels (up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men).

    e. Quit Smoking: Smoking raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease. Quitting smoking is a crucial step in managing hypertension.

    f. Stress Reduction: Managing stress through relaxation techniques, meditation, or yoga can help lower blood pressure.

  2. Medications:

    In some cases, lifestyle modifications alone may not be sufficient to control high blood pressure. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help lower your blood pressure. There are several classes of antihypertensive medications, including:

    a. Diuretics: These drugs help the body eliminate excess sodium and water, reducing blood volume and pressure. Common diuretics include thiazides and loop diuretics.

    b. Beta-Blockers: These medications reduce heart rate and the force of heart contractions, leading to lower blood pressure. Examples include metoprolol and atenolol. For More information Visit our Website wellbeingprotips.