Hypertension: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently elevated blood pressure. The higher the pressure the harder the heart has to pump. Hypertension can lead to damaged organs, as well as several illnesses, such as kidney failure, heart failure, stroke, or heart attack.    
  • Blood pressure readings are usually given as two numbers — for example, 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg). One or both of these numbers can be too high.
  • The top number is called the systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure.
  • Normal blood pressure is when your blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mmHg
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is when your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above
  • If your blood pressure numbers are 120/80 or higher, but below 140/90, it is pre-hypertension. 
  • Hypertension is of two types essential or secondary. Essential hypertension is the term for high blood pressure with unknown cause. It accounts for about 95% of cases. Secondary hypertension is the term for high blood pressure with a known direct cause, such as kidney disease, tumors.
Hypertension overview image

Recovery Time

The only way to reduce the high blood pressure is a lifelong treatment with daily intake of pills. A person can recover from hypertension by reducing weight and salt intake.


Hypertension may be diagnosed by a health professional who measures blood pressure with a device called a sphygmomanometer  (the device with the arm cuff, dial, pump, and valve). The systolic and diastolic numbers will be recorded and compared to a chart of values. If the pressure is greater than 140/90, you will be considered to have hypertension.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to look for signs of heart disease, damage to the eyes, and other changes in your body.
Tests may be done to look for:
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease, such as an echocardiogram or electrocardiogram
  • Kidney disease, such as a basic metabolic panel and urinalysis or ultrasound of the kidneys

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  What is Hypertension?
Hypertension is the persistent elevation of blood pressure in the arteries and arterioles, which can cause damage to end-organs like the eyes, kidneys and brain.

Q2.  What are the types of hypertension?
There are 2 types of hypertension. Essential or Primary Hypertension and Secondary hypertension Essential hypertension is the most prevalent and has to be controlled with medication to avoid complications. There is no cure for this type. Secondary hypertension is rare and the treatment depends on the cause.

Q3.  How do I get Hypertension?
You get Essential hypertension if you are genetically predisposed to it, i.e., if your parents are hypertensive, then you are also likely to develop hypertension. If you are overweight or take excessive salt (pickle, pappad and marinated fish, chicken etc.) in large quantities over a long period of time and have a sedentary lifestyle, you will get hypertension.

Q4.  What is the treatment for Hypertension?
Essential hypertension is initially treated with life style modification in younger age groups. If these measures fail then medication are prescribed depending on the severity of hypertension and age.

Q5.  How long does it take to cure?
Anti-hypertensive medications have to be taken for life to prevent long term complications.  Rarely if the blood pressure returns to normal limits, medications may be tapered and stopped.

Q6.  How do I prevent Hypertension?
You can prevent hypertension by following an active lifestyle with regular aerobic exercise and proper diet. Avoid excessive intake of salty food.  Weight reduction also brings down the blood pressure.  Stop excessive smoking and alcohol intake.

Q7.  What are the complications of Hypertension?
If hypertension is not controlled, it can affect the eyes, kidneys and the brain. The heart also fails in the long run. The risk of hemorrhagic brain stroke and heart attack are also high if blood pressure is not controlled.

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