What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly half of American adults. Often, people with this condition don't experience any symptoms.

Uncontrolled blood pressure can increase your risk for developing coronary artery disease, stroke and kidney disease.  Fortunately, medical offices regularly conduct high blood pressure screenings, and home monitoring devices are available.

Your blood pressure is measured by placing a cuff called a sphygmomanometer on the upper arm just above the elbow and then placing a stethoscope just below the cuff to listen to blood flow from the heart. The cuff is quickly inflated with air until blood flow can no longer be heard. Your systolic blood pressure is determined as air is slowly released from the cuff until blood flow is heard again. Your diastolic blood pressure is gauged as the remainder of the air in the cuff is released and when the sound of the blood flow disappears.

A normal blood pressure reading is a:
  • systolic less than 120 mmHg
  • diastolic less than 80 mmHg
An elevated blood pressure reading is a:
  • systolic between 120 to 129 mmHg
  • diastolic less than 80 mmHg
Hypertension Stage 1 is defined as a:
  • systolic between 130 to 139 mmHg
  • diastolic between 80 to 89 mmHg
Hypertension Stage 2 is defined as a:
  • systolic greater than 140 mmHg
  • diastolic greater than 90 mmHg

Risk Factors

  • Age (older than 40)
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history
  • High sodium diet (more than 3 grams per day)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Obstructive sleep apnea


During a "hypertensive emergency" (blood pressure level of 180 mmHg over 120 mmHg or higher), you may experience:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches or Confusion
  • Nausea/Vomiting

Diagnosis and Tests

If your physician may order the following tests to evaluate and monitor your condition:

  • Urine and blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest x-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Computed tomography (CT) of the chest


  • Regular exercise
  • Weight management
  • Heart-healthy diet
  • Medications