Hypertension Home > Hypertension

Hypertension occurs when pressure inside the blood vessels is too high. Many people do not experience any symptoms, so they may ignore their condition. Over time, however, the strain hypertension places on the heart and blood vessels can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage. The condition often can be controlled through a combination of lifestyle changes and, in many cases, medication.

What Is Hypertension?

Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure inside your blood vessels -- both while the heart is beating and while it is relaxed. Naturally, high blood pressure is when the pressure within your blood vessels is too high. This is also known as hypertension. This article provides information on:
  • What blood pressure is
  • How hypertension is diagnosed
  • How it affects the body
  • Treatment options for hypertension.
This information about hypertension can be helpful as you take the next steps toward a healthier future.

How Is Hypertension Measured?

Blood pressure is the amount of force (pressure) that blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels as it passes through them. As blood is pumped from your heart into your vessels, enough pressure is created to send it to all other parts of your body.
To measure your blood pressure, a fabric cuff is wrapped around your arm and then slightly inflated. The blood pressure shows up on a gauge attached to the cuff. The healthcare provider reads the numbers from the gauge as air is released from the cuff. This device that reads blood pressure is called a sphygmomanometer. Blood pressure can also be measured with a blood pressure machine.
The two numbers that measure your blood pressure are written like a fraction: one number on top and one on the bottom. For example, what many people consider "normal" blood pressure is read as 120/80. The number on top is called the systolic pressure. It measures the pressure inside your blood vessels at the moment your heart beats. The number on the bottom is your diastolic pressure. It measures the pressure in your blood vessels between heartbeats, when your heart is resting.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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