What BP Is Hypertension? High Blood Pressure

Medically Reviewed on 9/26/2022
What BP Is Hypertension
Hypertension occurs when blood pressure readings are 130/80 mmHg or higher

Hypertension (HTN) is blood pressure (BP) of 130/80 mmHg or higher.

The American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and other health organizations have issued comprehensive guidelines that help underline the significance of early prevention, identification, and treatment of hypertension in all age groups.

What do blood pressure numbers mean?

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by a column of blood against the arterial wall. It has two components:

  • Systolic BP is the upper number in a BP reading that measures the pressure in the arteries by blood pumped by the heart.
  • Diastolic BP is the lower number in a BP reading that measures the arterial resistance to the blood pumped from the heart.

Normal blood pressure levels are less than 120/80 mmHg. Hypertension is when BP readings are consistently elevated above the given values.

What are blood pressure levels?


BP is less than or equal to 120/80 mmHg. This indicates that your heart is in good health.


BP readings are consistently in the 120 to 129 mmHg systolic range and less than 80 mmHg diastolic range. If you have high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop hypertension in the future if you do not take proper measures to control the condition, such as diet control, regular exercise, weight management, and stress management.

Stage I hypertension

BP consistently ranges between 130-139/80-89 mmHg. Based on your age and risk factors, your doctors may recommend dietary changes or prescribe medications. If you or a member of your family has a history of heart disease, your doctor may recommend lifelong medications to prevent cardiovascular complications such as a heart attack or stroke.

Stage II hypertension

BP consistently exceeds 140/90 mmHg. Your doctor may prescribe BP medications in addition to lifestyle changes to control hypertension. Furthermore, they may advise you to check your BP at home and monitor your overall health.

Hypertensive crisis

BP readings are consistently higher than 180/120 mmHg. This is the most severe stage of hypertension and requires immediate medical attention. A reading this high may indicate that you are experiencing symptoms of organ damage such as shortness of breath, chest pain, back pain, weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking, or vision changes. 

Table. AHA guidelines for blood pressure levels
Type Readings
  • Systolic: Less than 120 mmHg
  • Diastolic: Less than 80 mmHg
  • Systolic: 120 to 129 mmHg
  • Diastolic: Less than 80 mmHg
HBP stage I (hypertension)
  • Systolic: 130 to 139 mmHg
  • Diastolic: 80 to 89 mmHg
HBP stage II (hypertension)
  • Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
  • Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher
Hypertensive crisis
  • Systolic: Higher than 180 mmHg
  • Diastolic: Higher than 120 mmHg


Salt and sodium are the same. See Answer

What are the common signs and symptoms of hypertension?

High blood pressure is often referred to as the "silent killer" because it typically causes no visible signs or symptoms but can cause damage to your body over time. 

You can be proactive in monitoring your BP consistently along with watching out for these common symptoms:

Most doctor appointments begin with a BP check since the majority of people with hypertension learn they have it during routine doctor visits. If your BP is consistently higher than the normal range in many readings (taken at various visits), your doctor will most likely diagnose you with HBP. 

High blood pressure puts strain on your heart and arteries, which can weaken them in the long run. This can eventually lead to health issues such as heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, vascular dementia, renal parenchymal disease, sudden blindness, and peripheral arterial disease

What are the risk factors for hypertension?

Although the cause of high blood pressure is unknown, the following risk factors can contribute to the condition:

  • Advanced age
  • Male sex (men are more likely to develop high blood pressure before age 65, and women tend to develop it after age 65)
  • Race (more than 4 in 10 African Americans have high blood pressure)
  • Genetics
  • Family history of hypertension
  • Being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Excessive sodium intake
  • Diet low in vitamin D
  • Lack of exercise
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Some medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, decongestants, weight loss medications, and stimulants)
  • Underlying health conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea, kidney conditions, adrenal gland tumors, and thyroid diseases
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy

Primary hypertension is the most common type of hypertension and occurs when the condition develops for no clear reason. Secondary hypertension occurs when the condition occurs due to another health condition and can often be resolved by addressing the underlying cause.

What lifestyle changes can help treat hypertension?

Although many doctors prescribe medications to treat high blood pressure, it is often best addressed by lifestyle changes and dietary modifications.

  • Eat a healthy diet: The DASH diet has been shown to help improve hypertension. This is a low-sodium diet that focuses on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy foods while limiting your intake of saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
  • Exercise: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, which comes out to about 30 minutes a day. 
  • Lose weight: For every 2 pounds you drop, your BP will go down by about one point. Talk to your doctor about healthy ways to lose weight.
  • Quit smoking: Quitting smoking can have a significant impact on your blood pressure and overall health.
  • Limit alcohol: Frequent alcohol intake can raise your BP. 
  • Manage stress: Try deep breathing exercises, daily meditation, yoga, or other techniques to lower stress.
  • Get quality sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If your partner complains that you snore a lot or if you wake up with breathlessness, talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study done. You may have sleep apnea, which can raise your BP and harm your heart.

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What medications can help treat hypertension?

For some people, lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to lower BP.

Doctors may recommend medications or combinations of medications to manage the condition and reduce side effects caused by these or other drugs. Common hypertension medications and treatments include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: Suppress the formation of angiotensin, which relaxes the arteries (angiotensin is a hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict)
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers: Prevent the hormone angiotensin from relaxing the blood arteries
  • Beta-blockers: Help your heart beat slowly and with less force by reducing the hormone adrenaline
  • Calcium channel blockers: Prevent calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessel muscles, allowing them to relax
  • Diuretics (water pills): Remove extra water and salt from your body, reducing the fluid flowing through your arteries
  • Renin-inhibitors: Reduce the synthesis of renin, which is an enzyme produced by your kidneys and initiates a chemical process that progressively increases BP
  • Renal denervation: Targets BP-regulating nerves near the kidneys by delivering heat energy to a kidney through a catheter (a thin, flexible tube).

Can you prevent hypertension?

If you notice symptoms of hypertension, talk to your doctor right away. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help you manage the condition and prevent it from worsening.

If you are over 40 years old or have any risk factors for hypertension, you should see a doctor at least once a year to have your BP checked. You should also monitor your BP at home.

Even if you have not been diagnosed with hypertension, you should check your BP at least once a month because hypertension often causes no noticeable symptoms.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/26/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Hypertension: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hypertension

What Is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/high-blood-pressure

High Blood Pressure–Understanding the Silent Killer: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/special-features/high-blood-pressure-understanding-silent-killer

New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure Guidelines Lower Definition of Hypertension: https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2017/11/08/11/47/mon-5pm-bp-guideline-aha-2017

Hypertension is the number one risk factor for death globally, affecting more than 1 billion people: https://world-heart-federation.org/what-we-do/hypertension/