What is High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension, or High Blood Pressuretaking someone's high blood pressure

The term “high blood pressure” is used to describe a blood pressure that remains at 140/90 mmHg or above each time it is taken. However, the “high” can be the systolic, diastolic, or both: –

  • 170/70 mmHg – a high systolic pressure.
  • 120/104 mmHg – a high diastolic pressure.
  • 170/110 mmHg – both systolic and diastolic pressures are high.






< 130

< 85

High Normal

130 – 139

85  – 89

Hypertension> 140

> 90

Blood pressure is the arterial pressure of blood (as it flows through the arteries). It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and recorded as two figures. If the readings were, for example, 140/90 mmHg the blood pressure is described as “’140 over 90”.

These two readings are: –

  • The first reading is the systolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pumps the blood through them.
  • The second reading is the diastolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between each contraction.

The pressure of the blood pressure as it passes through the arteries is determined by the amount of blood pumped by the heart and condition of the arteries. More than 90% of hypertension has no underlying disease and is known as “essential hypertension.” However, high blood pressure can also be caused by other diseases or physical problems and common causes of this, “secondary hypertension”, are kidney or thyroid disease. Many factors, including genetics, age, race, chronic stress, obesity, smoking, high salt diet, alcohol abuse and a sedentary lifestyle, are associated with high blood pressure.

A single blood pressure reading that is high does not indicate that you have “high blood pressure”’. This is because your blood pressure varies depending on anxiety, stress and exercise. Diagnosis of “;high blood pressure”, or (hypertension, is only made if there have been several blood pressure readings, taken on different occasions, when the patient is relaxed, that are high.

Having high blood pressure can increase the risk of developing heart disease, a stroke, and other serious conditions. Generally, the higher the blood pressure, the greater the risk.

Who Is Affected by High Blood Pressure?

Approximately half of people over 65, and about 1 in 4 middle aged adults, in the United Kingdom suffer from high blood pressure with most of these being in the mildly high (up to 160/100 mmHg) group. However, at least 1 in 20 adults have blood pressure of 160/100 mmHg or above.

High blood pressure is more common in people: –

  • Suffering with diabetes. About 3 in 10 people with Type 1 diabetes and more than half of people with Type 2 diabetes will eventually go on to develop high blood pressure.
  • From Afro-Caribbean origin.
  • From the Indian sub-continent.
  • Who have a family history of high blood pressure.
  • Who are overweight.
  • Eat a lot of salt.
  • Do not eat enough fruit and vegetables.
  • Do not exercise enough.
  • Drink a lot of alcohol.

What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

Often referred to as the “silent killer”, hypertension can often develop over many years without noticeable symptoms. It is only when the condition becomes more severe that the warning signs appear. Signs such as headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, racing heartbeat, or irregular heartbeat.
Hypertension is a serious disorder that can cause many other health problems, including heart attack, kidney damage, stroke, brain damage, and blindness.

If the high blood pressure is severe, the sufferer may have any of the following symptoms: –

  • Headaches.
  • Ears ringing/buzzing.
  • Confusion.
  • Chest pain.
  • Heart failure.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Excessive perspiration.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle tremors.
  • Blood in the urine.