What you should know about high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a very common condition and affects millions of people within the United States. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension and is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure is greater than a healthy level and puts too much force on the artery walls. About one-third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure.


Our blood pressure is measured by two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure (i.e. 120/80). Systolic pressure is the top number which measures the pressure when the heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number and measures the pressure when the heart is at rest in between beats. A person has high blood pressure when the systolic pressure is 140 or higher or if the diastolic pressure is 90 or higher.

Key statistics for high blood pressure:

·         About 70 million American adults (29%) have high blood pressure—that’s 1 of every 3 adults.

·         Only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.

·         Nearly 1 of 3 American adults has prehypertension—blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal, but not yet in the high blood pressure range.

·         Women are about as likely as men to develop high blood pressure during their lifetimes.

·         However, for people younger than 45 years old, the condition affects more men than women. For people 65 years old or older, high blood pressure affects more women than men.

There are a number of things that can cause high blood pressure. It is common for people to develop high blood pressure as they age. There are often no signs or symptoms even if people have very high levels. Some people may experience shortness of breath, nose bleeds, but these don’t often occur until a person’s blood pressure is severely high.

Risk factors for high blood pressure include being overweight or obese, having a family history of high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and poor diet. There are two types of high blood pressure: primary high blood pressure and secondary high blood pressure. Primary high blood pressure often develops over many years and there is usually no cause that can be identified. Secondary high blood pressure is caused by an underlying condition. This type usually comes on suddenly.

Certain conditions that can lead to secondary high blood pressure include obstructive sleep apnea, kidney problems, adrenal gland tumors, thyroid problems, congenital defects, medications like birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, some prescription drugs, illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, or alcohol abuse.