Blood Pressure Home > High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure occurs when the pressure within blood vessels is too high. People with an average blood pressure reading of more than 140/90 are considered to have high blood pressure. If it goes untreated or uncontrolled, the condition can lead to serious health problems, such as heart attack and kidney failure. Common risk factors include obesity, being physically inactive, and consuming too much sodium.

An Introduction to High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure inside your blood vessels -- both while the heart is beating and while it is relaxed. High blood pressure, as you might guess, is when the pressure within your blood vessels is too high. This is also known as hypertension.
About 65 million American adults -- nearly 1 in 3 -- have high blood pressure.

Why Is Blood Pressure Important?

Blood pressure is the amount of force (pressure) that blood exerts on the walls of the vessels as it passes through them. As blood is pumped from your heart into your blood vessels, enough pressure is created to send it to all other parts of your body. As vessels travel away from the heart, they branch off and gradually get smaller, just like the branches of a tree. One branch may go to the brain, while another may go to your kidneys. Blood pressure keeps the blood flowing through all these branches so that your body's cells get the oxygen and nutrients they need and waste matter can be removed.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

In most people, the specific cause or causes of high blood pressure are not known. This is called primary or essential hypertension. In other people, the condition is the result of another medical problem or medication. When the cause is known, this is called secondary high blood pressure or secondary hypertension.
If a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure, it doesn't mean that he or she is "too nervous," overanxious, or obsessive. This is a popular myth. High blood pressure is not nervous tension. In fact, many people who are perfectly calm have the condition.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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