What is hypertension?

Hypertension is a medical term for high blood pressure that does not return to normal. Many people don't know they have hypertension. Have yourself checked. If you discover you have hypertension, contact your doctor or healthcare professional immediately. Why? Untreated hypertension increases your risk of heart, kidney, eye, and brain damage; and can cut 10 to 20 years off your life.

How blood pressure is measured...

Blood pressure refers to the pressure placed on artery walls by blood flow. Blood pressure is measured by:

  • systolic pressure which is the highest and it occurs when the heart contracts
  • diastolic pressure which is the lowest and it occurs when the heart relaxes

Blood pressure values...

Blood pressure for adults is expressed as Systolic Pressure / Diastolic Pressure

Category Systolic (mmHg) Diastolic (mmHg)
Optimal Under 120 Under 80
Normal Under 130 Under 85
Hypertension-Mild 140-159 90-99
Hypertension-Severe Over 179 Over 109

Lifestyle changes...

  • Start a light exercise program (you are probably sedentary)
  • Reduce your weight (you are probably overweight)
  • Eat a well-balanced, high fiber (25-35mg/day) diet
  • Take your prescribed medications
  • Reduce your sodium (salt) intake
  • Limit your alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking


The following are common anti-hypertensive medications. Don't take any of them unless prescribed by your doctor or healthcare professional. Although they may be prescribed, there are no guarantees that complications due to hypertension will be reduced.

  • Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors : uprevent arteries from constricting, which makes it easier for the heart to pump blood
  • Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARB) : prevent arteries from constricting and prevent kidneys from retaining salt and water
  • Calcium channel blockers: relax arterial walls, which lowers blood pressure
  • Beta-blockers: work by making the heart beat more slowly, which decreases the heart's work load and reduces blood pressure
  • Diuretics: reduce the amount of salt and water in the body, which reduces the volume of blood being pumped by the heart
  • Alpha-blockers: prevent arteries from constricting

Updated: March 12, 2003