Hypertension
 
High blood pressure is a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher. Both numbers are important.

Once high blood pressure develops, it usually lasts a lifetime. The good news is that it can be treated and controlled.

High blood pressure is called "the silent killer" because it usually presents with no symptoms. Some people may not find out they have it until they have trouble with their heart, brain or kidneys. When high blood pressure is not found and treated, it can cause:

  • The heart to enlarge and weaken, which may lead to heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed, which may cause vision changes and result in blindness

What is blood pressure?
Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of your body in vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats (about 60-70 times a minute at rest); it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.

Blood pressure is always given as these two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Both are important. Usually they are written one above or before the other, such as 120/80 mmHg. The top number is the systolic and the bottom the diastolic. When the two measurements are written down, the systolic pressure is the first or top number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example, 120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is "120 over 80".