Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure.
This means that the blood applies too much force against the walls of the blood vessels.
Around 85 million people in the United States have high blood pressure.
Medical guidelines define hypertension as a blood pressure higher than 130 over 80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), according to guidelines issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) in November 2017.
Fast facts on hypertension:
Here are some key points about hypertension. More detail is in the main article.
- Normal blood pressure is 120 over 80 mm of mercury (mmHg), but hypertension is higher than 130 over 80 mmHg.
- Acute causes of high blood pressure include stress, but it can happen on its own, or it can result from an underlying condition, such as kidney disease.
- Unmanaged hypertension can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and other problems.
- Lifestyle factors are the best way to address high blood pressure.
While blood pressure is best regulated through the diet before it reaches the stage of hypertension, there is a range of treatment options.
Lifestyle adjustments are the standard first-line treatment for hypertension.
Regular physical exercise
Doctors recommend that patients with hypertension engage in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, dynamic, aerobic exercise. This can include walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming on 5 to 7 days of the week.
Avoiding stress, or developing strategies for managing unavoidable stress, can help with blood pressure control.
Using alcohol, drugs, smoking, and unhealthy eating to cope with stress will add to hypertensive problems. These should be avoided.
Smoking can raise blood pressure. Giving up smoking reduces the risk of hypertension, heart conditions, and other health issues.
People with blood pressure higher than 130 over 80 may use medication to treat hypertension.
Drugs are usually started one at a time at a low dose. Side effects associated with antihypertensive drugs are usually minor.
Eventually, a combination of at least two antihypertensive drugs is usually required.
A range of drug types are available to help lower blood pressure, including:
- diuretics, including thiazides, chlorthalidone, and indapamide
- beta-blockers and alpha-blockers
- calcium-channel blockers
- central agonists
- peripheral adrenergic inhibitor
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- angiotensin receptor blockers
The choice of drug depends on the individual and any other conditions they may have.
Anyone taking antihypertensive medications should be sure to carefully read labels, especially before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as decongestants.
These may interact with medications used to lower blood pressure.