High Blood Pressure

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High Blood Pressure (HBP), or hypertension, is a condition where the force of the blood moving through the arteries is higher than normal (NIH, 2014). Hypertension is a silent but serious condition that can lead to cardiac and renal complications, as well as a host of other health problems (NIH, 2014), including visual impairment, stroke and peripheral vascular disease (WHO, updated 2016).  An estimated 7.5 million people die of raised blood pressure annually around the world, accounting for about 12.5% of deaths (WHO, updated 2016).    Between 1980 and 2006, uncontrolled hypertension increased from 600 million to almost 1 billion people worldwide, in part due to an aging population and population growth (WHO, updated 2016).  High levels of dietary salt is also considered to play a role in raised hypertension in the developing world and raised blood pressure is considered to be a leading cause of premature death worldwide (World Heart Federation, 2016).


Figure 1. http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm

Blood pressure measurements have two components – the systolic and the diastolic.  The systolic measurement is the pressure of the blood in the arteries when the heart beats, where the diastolic measurement is the pressure between beats.  The numbers are typically written with the systolic number over the diastolic number and a normal pressure for an adult would be close to 120/80 millimeter of mercury, or mmHg (NIH, 2014).

Blood pressure fluctuates normally.  It is often lower during sleep and higher with activity, excitement, or nervousness.  Problems occur if blood pressure stays high all the time (NIH, 2014).


Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Healthy Adults

Category Systolic (top number) Diastolic (bottom number)
Normal Less than 120 And Less than 80
Prehypertension 120-139 Or 80-89
High Blood Pressure
Stage 1 140-159 Or 90-99
Stage 2 160 or higher Or 100 or higher

Table 1 Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Healthy Adults  (NIH, 2014)