Frequently Asked Questions About Hypertension

Hypertension is when the blood pressure in the blood vessels rises above healthy levels. That answers what this condition is, but there are plenty of frequently asked questions about hypertension still left.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hypertension

1.       What is blood pressure?

This is the force that circulating blood applies on the blood vessel walls. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, is determined by the quantity of blood the heart pumps and the resistance to blood flow in the arteries – the more blood pumped and the narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure – and can be affected by activity, rest, temperature, diet, emotions, posture, and medications.

2.       How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure can be measured with medical supplies like a blood pressure monitor or a sphygmomanometer. A doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider wraps an inflatable arm cuff with a pressure-measuring gauge around a patient’s arm (blood pressure may also be measured at home). The cuff is inflated to squeeze the arm and then slowly deflated. During this process, the doctor will listen to the patient’s pulse with a stethoscope. A blood pressure reading has two numbers; the first measures systolic pressure (pressure in the arteries when the heart beats), while the second measures diastolic pressure (pressure in the arteries between beats). A blood pressure of 120/80mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) is deemed normal for adults. Both numbers are equally important until age 60, after which the first takes more prominence.

3.       What are the types of high blood pressure?

·         Primary or essential hypertension.

·         Secondary hypertension.

·         Isolated systolic hypertension – in which systolic pressure is high but diastolic pressure is normal – is common in people over the age of 60 years.

4.       What causes high blood pressure?

Primary hypertension has no identifiable cause. Secondary hypertension may be caused by a number of underlying conditions, including:

·         Obstructive sleep apnea.

·         Kidney problems.

·         Adrenal gland tumors.

·         Thyroid problems.

·         Congenital blood vessel defects.

·         Birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs, and other medications.

·         Cocaine, amphetamines, and other illegal drugs.

·         Excessive or chronic alcohol use.

5.       What are the symptoms of hypertension?

Hypertension is often called a ‘silent killer’ because it can develop over the course of years without signs or symptoms. Rare symptoms include headaches, vomiting, shortness of breath, vision changes, confusion, and nosebleeds, but these tend to occur only after severe damage has taken place.

6.       What are the risk factors for hypertension?

·         Age and gender.

·         Race and ethnicity.

·         Family history.

·         Overweight or obesity.

·         Physical inactivity.

·         Smoking or chewing tobacco.

·         A diet high in sodium and low in potassium and vitamin D.

·         Alcohol abuse.

·         Stress.

·         Anxiety.

·         Kidney disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and other chronic conditions.

7.       How do blood pressure levels vary by age and gender?

Men are more likely to develop hypertension through early middle age, and women after 65 years of age.



















75 and older







8.       How do blood pressure levels vary by rage and ethnicity?

Hypertension is more common and develops earlier in blacks than in whites.




African Americans



Mexican Americans










9.       What are the possible complications of hypertension?

·         Hardened arteries.

·         Decreased circulation and oxygen flow to the heart.

·         Angina.

·         Heart failure.

·         Heart attack.

·         Decreased blood and oxygen supply to the brain.

·         Stroke.

·         Aneurysm.

·         Heart failure.

·         Weakened and narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys.

·         Chronic kidney disease.

·         Thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes.

·         Metabolic syndrome.

·         Memory or understanding problems.

10.   How common is hypertension?

·         67 million American adults have hypertension, but only 52% keep it under control.

·         More than 1 in 5 adults worldwide have high blood pressure.

11.   Why is keeping hypertension under control important?

·         Over 360,000 American deaths in 2013 were directly or indirectly related to hypertension.

·         Hypertension contributes to about 1,000 deaths every day in the U.S.

·         Complications from high blood pressure account for 9.4 million deaths around the world every year.

·         7 of every 10 people having their first heart attack have hypertension.

·         8 of every 10 people having their first stroke have hypertension.

·         7 of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have hypertension.

·         People with hypertension are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease. 

·         Decreasing average population systolic blood pressure by 12 to 13 mm Hg could reduce strokes by 37%, coronary heart disease by 21%, cardiovascular disease deaths by 25%, and deaths from all causes by 13%.

12.   How is hypertension diagnosed?

Blood pressure levels


Below 120/80mm Hg.


Systolic pressure ranging between 120 and 139 mm Hg or diastolic pressure ranging between 80 and 89 mm Hg.

Stage 1 hypertension

Systolic pressure ranging between 140 and 159 mm Hg or diastolic pressure ranging between 90 and 99 mm Hg.

Stage 2 hypertension

Systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher, or diastolic pressure of 100 mm Hg or higher.


13.   How is hypertension treated?


·         Thiazide diuretics.

·         Beta blockers.

·         Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

·         Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). 

·         Calcium channel blockers.

·         Renin inhibitors.

·         Alpha blockers.

·         Alpha-beta blockers.

·         Central-acting agents.

·         Vasodilators.

·         Aldosterone antagonists.

Lifestyle changes

·         Checking blood pressure regularly at home, at the doctor’s office, or in a pharmacy.

·         Dash diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

·         Reading nutrition labels.

·         Regular exercise (at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per week).

·         Quitting smoking.

·         Drinking alcohol moderately.

·         Keeping a healthy weight.

·         Losing weight if overweight or obese.

·         Managing stress or anxiety.

·         Controlling diabetes.

14.   What are the goals of treatment?

The goals of hypertension treatment are to return and maintain blood pressure at normal levels according to the patient’s age.


Target blood pressure

Healthy adults aged 60 or older

Less than150/90 mm Hg

Healthy adults younger than 60

Less than140/90 mm Hg

Adults with chronic kidney disease, diabetes or coronary artery disease or at high risk of coronary artery disease

Less than140/90 mm Hg


15.   Is hypertension preventable?

High blood pressure can be prevented with the same lifestyle changes used to treat it.

16.   How much does hypertension cost?

Hypertension-related costs the U.S. $51 billion a year – including 47.5 billion in direct healthcare costs.


Related: Hypertension: Fighting the Silent Killer