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What is Hypertension?

written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse Written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

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reviewed by Dr. Katalin Karolyi Reviewed by Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

September 30, 2021 Read Time - 5 minutes

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension is the medical term used to describe high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the pressure inside your blood vessels as the heart pumps blood throughout your body.

Hypertension is diagnosed by a medical doctor and is determined after your doctor measures your blood pressure using a medical device. There are many blood pressure measurement devices approved by the FDA, and some even link information through smartphones.

Hypertension is a medical illness and is often preventable and highly treatable. The circulatory system carries oxygenated blood throughout your body to ensure survival and proper functioning. When you have high blood pressure, vessels contract to avoid damage; thus, the amount of oxygenated blood traveling throughout your body may be reduced. 

This pressure (blood pressure) is the result of two forces: 

  1. The first force (systolic pressure) occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. 
  2. The second force (diastolic pressure) is created as the heart rests between heartbeats.

These two forces are what doctors use to measure blood pressure, and each represents a number in a blood pressure reading. It is why blood pressure measurements are documented as one number over another number. 

For example 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) is a blood pressure measurement in which 120 is the systolic reading and 80 is the diastolic measurement.

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Hypertension Causes

Hypertension is caused by many factors, including family history, body weight, blood cholesterol levels, diet, and exercise or no identifiable causes in primary hypertension. What is the main cause of hypertension? The main cause of hypertension is typically an underlying condition such as obesity and being overweight.

Family history is an important factor when determining hypertension causes. Hypertension often runs in families, so it is important to keep your doctor informed.

Being overweight increases the risk of developing hypertension. Being overweight puts more strain on your heart, which increases the pressure within your blood vessels. This increased pressure leads to hypertension.

Poor diet that includes foods high in fat, salt, and sugar increases the risk of hypertension. Diets high in fat can lead to increased cholesterol levels, which increase pressure within blood vessels. 

Imagine a blocked pipe that is filled with water. A blockage in the pipe would increase the water pressure as it passes through the narrowed pipe. The same concept is true for blood pressure with cholesterol being the blockage.

Hypertension Symptoms

Hypertension is sometimes termed the “silent killer” because it often causes damage without symptoms. For many people, hypertension is found as a secondary problem during a checkup visit. Hypertension is often found during routine checkups when your doctor measures and documents your blood pressure as a part of your vital signs. Blood pressure is always measured with each doctor’s appointment and may be caught in its early stages.

What are the warning signs of hypertension? Hypertension signs can be subtle such as getting a headache or feeling tired. Severe symptoms can be dizziness, trouble seeing, or chest pain. However, most of the time hypertension has no obvious symptoms to indicate that something is wrong.

What are the stages of hypertension? The American Heart Association categorizes hypertension into different categories based on severity. The stages of hypertension include:

Blood Pressure Systolic (upper number)And/orDiastolic (lower number
NormalLess than 120AndLess than 80
Elevated120-129AndLess than 80
HBP stage I130-139Or80-89
HBP stage 2140 or higherOr90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis (emergency)Higher than 180And/orHigher than 120

Knowing your numbers, risk factors, and lifestyle will help you treat hypertension effectively and quickly. Awareness of your risk factors can help you identify the positive changes you need to make in order to lower your blood pressure.

It is important to get your yearly check-up so that you can catch hypertension before it causes too much damage.

Hypertension Treatment

Hypertension is preventable and highly treatable if diagnosed. The best way to protect yourself is being aware of the risk and making changes that matter. Hypertension can even be cured with lifestyle changes and medical management.

Many prescription medications are available to treat hypertension. Based on your medical history and stage of hypertension, your doctor will determine which prescription medication is right for you. Some common medications used to treat hypertension include:

  • Valsartan
  • HCTZ (hydrochlorothiazide)
  • Lisinopril
  • Amlodipine
  • Metoprolol

During the course of treatment for hypertension, blood pressure measurement should be conducted. You can purchase a portable device that measures blood pressure accurately. Some smartwatches have blood pressure monitoring capabilities, but medical devices similar to those used in doctors’ offices are traditionally used.

These devices are typically placed on your arm or wrist while blood pressure is measured. This takes about 1-2 minutes. After this time, you can remove the device until next time. Mark down your blood pressure in a journal or smartphone app so that your doctor can review your numbers on your next visit. 


Read More: Hypertension Medications


  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Hypertension Treatment Online

If you have symptoms of hypertension or have self-monitored a high blood pressure reading on your medical device, talk to an online doctor about hypertension treatment options.

Make an appointment today to speak with an online doctor at PlushCare about options to manage hypertension and if prescription medication is right for you. PlushCare offers online consultations with licensed medical doctors and is a safe and convenient way to take charge of your health.


Read More About Hypertension


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American Heart Association. Why High Blood Pressure is a “Silent Killer.” Accessed on September 12, 2021 from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer 

American Heart Association. Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. Accessed on September 20, 2021 from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes. Accessed on September 20, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm

Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure (hypertension) – Symptoms and causes. Accessed on September 20, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410

Mayo Clinic. Choosing Blood Pressure Medication. Accessed on September 24,2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-medication/art-20046280

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