High blood pressure (hypertension) - Symptoms and causes (2023)

Overview

What is hypertension? A Mayo Clinic expert explains.

Learn more about hypertension from nephrologist Leslie Thomas, M.D.

Hi. I'm Dr. Leslie Thomas, a nephrologist at Mayo Clinic. In this video, we'll cover the basics of hypertension. What is it? Who gets it? The symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Whether you're looking for answers for yourself or someone you love, we're here to give you the best information available. Hypertension means high blood pressure. A blood pressure measurement includes two numbers. Those numbers are the systolic blood pressure and the diastolic blood pressure. Because of the pumping action of the heart, the pressure within the arteries cycles between a higher pressure and a lower pressure. The higher pressure occurs during the contraction of the heart's left ventricle. The higher pressure is known as the systolic blood pressure. The lower pressure occurs during the relaxation of the heart's left ventricle. This lower pressure is referred to as the diastolic blood pressure.

Who gets it?

Hypertension is a very common condition affecting up to 40% of adults. It is one of the most common conditions for which medications are prescribed. Most people with hypertension have primary hypertension. How primary hypertension develops is not entirely understood. However, it has felt to result from many inherited and environmental factors that interact in complex ways within the body. Risks for the development of primary hypertension include family history, advancing age, obesity, high sodium diet, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity. In cases of hypertension in which a specific cause is identified, the term secondary hypertension is used. Many potential causes of secondary hypertension exist. These causes include certain prescription or over-the-counter medications, kidney disease, certain endocrine disorders, or a significant narrowing of the aorta or a kidney artery.

What are the symptoms?

Rarely, an individual with very high blood pressure may have symptoms. These symptoms might include shortness of breath, blurry vision or headache.

How is it diagnosed?

Hypertension can be diagnosed by performing careful and repeated measures of the blood pressure. Blood pressure categories include normal blood pressure, defined as a systolic pressure less than 120, and a diastolic pressure less than 80. Elevated blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure 120 to 129, and a diastolic pressure less than 80. Hypertension is defined as systolic pressure greater than or equal to 130, or a diastolic pressure greater than or equal to 80.

How is it treated?

(Video) High Blood Pressure - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Treatment of hypertension involves lifestyle modification alone or in combination with antihypertensive medication therapy. For individuals with certain common conditions, including cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes mellitus. Certain medications may be more advantageous to use compared to other medications. Deciding upon the best blood pressure to target, when to start antihypertensive medication therapy, and which specific medication or a combination of medications to utilize is highly individualized and informed by many factors.

What now?

You and your care team can work together to create the best treatment plan for you. No matter what methods you decide on. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about managing your hypertension. If you'd like to learn even more about hypertension, watch our other related videos or visit mayoclinic.org. We wish you well.

High blood pressure is a common condition that affects the body's arteries. It's also called hypertension. If you have high blood pressure, the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high. The heart has to work harder to pump blood.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). In general, hypertension is a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mm Hg or higher.

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association divide blood pressure into four general categories. Ideal blood pressure is categorized as normal.)

  • Normal blood pressure. Blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or lower.
  • Elevated blood pressure. The top number ranges from 120 to 129 mm Hg and the bottom number is below, not above, 80 mm Hg.
  • Stage 1 hypertension. The top number ranges from 130 to 139 mm Hg or the bottom number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension. The top number is 140 mm Hg or higher or the bottom number is 90 mm Hg or higher.

Blood pressure higher than 180/120 mm Hg is considered a hypertensive emergency or crisis. Seek emergency medical help for anyone with these blood pressure numbers.

Untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious health problems. It's important to have your blood pressure checked at least every two years starting at age 18. Some people need more-frequent checks.

Healthy lifestyle habits —such as not smoking, exercising and eating well — can help prevent and treat high blood pressure. Some people need medicine to treat high blood pressure.

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Symptoms

Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms.

(Video) High Blood Pressure - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

A few people with high blood pressure may have:

  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds

However, these symptoms aren't specific. They usually don't occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.

When to see a doctor

Blood pressure screening is an important part of general health care. How often you should get your blood pressure checked depends on your age and overall health.

Ask your provider for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you're age 40 or older, or you're 18 to 39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask for a blood pressure check every year.

Your care provider will likely recommend more-frequent readings if have high blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease.

Children age 3 and older may have blood pressure measured as a part of their yearly checkups.

If you don't regularly see a care provider, you may be able to get a free blood pressure screening at a health resource fair or other locations in your community. Free blood pressure machines are also available in some stores and pharmacies. The accuracy of these machines depends on several things, such as a correct cuff size and proper use of the machines. Ask your health care provider for advice on using public blood pressure machines.

More Information

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(Video) High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Signs, Symptoms, Ways to Lower It | Mass General Brigham

Causes

Blood pressure is determined by two things: the amount of blood the heart pumps and how hard it is for the blood to move through the arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure.

There are two main types of high blood pressure.

Primary hypertension, also called essential hypertension

For most adults, there's no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension. It tends to develop gradually over many years. Plaque buildup in the arteries, called atherosclerosis, increases the risk of high blood pressure.

Secondary hypertension

This type of high blood pressure is caused by an underlying condition. It tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Conditions and medicines that can lead to secondary hypertension include:

(Video) Hypertension- causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology

  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Blood vessel problems present at birth, also called congenital heart defects
  • Cough and cold medicines, some pain relievers, birth control pills, and other prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
  • Kidney disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Thyroid problems

Sometimes just getting a health checkup causes blood pressure to increase. This is called white coat hypertension.

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  • Caffeine and hypertension
  • Can having vitamin D deficiency cause high blood pressure?
  • Sleep deprivation: A cause of high blood pressure?

Risk factors

High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:

  • Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases with age. Until about age 64, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
  • Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among Black people. It develops at an earlier age in Black people than it does in white people.
  • Family history. You're more likely to develop high blood pressure if you have a parent or sibling with the condition.
  • Obesity or being overweight. Excess weight causes changes in the blood vessels, the kidneys and other parts of the body. These changes often increase blood pressure. Being overweight or having obesity also raises the risk of heart disease and its risk factors, such as high cholesterol.
  • Lack of exercise. Not exercising can cause weight gain. Increased weight raises the risk of high blood pressure. People who are inactive also tend to have higher heart rates.
  • Tobacco use or vaping. Smoking, chewing tobacco or vaping immediately raises blood pressure for a short while. Tobacco smoking injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. If you smoke, ask your care provider for strategies to help you quit.
  • Too much salt. A lot of salt — also called sodium — in the body can cause the body to retain fluid. This increases blood pressure.
  • Low potassium levels. Potassium helps balance the amount of salt in the body's cells. A proper balance of potassium is important for good heart health. Low potassium levels may be due to a lack of potassium in the diet or certain health conditions, including dehydration.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol use has been linked with increased blood pressure, particularly in men.
  • Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. Stress-related habits such as eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol can lead to further increases in blood pressure.
  • Certain chronic conditions. Kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea are some of the conditions that can lead to high blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy. Sometimes pregnancy causes high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is most common in adults. But kids can have high blood pressure too. High blood pressure in children may be caused by problems with the kidneys or heart. But for a growing number of kids, high blood pressure is due to lifestyle habits such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.

Complications

The excessive pressure on the artery walls caused by high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and body organs. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to complications including:

  • Heart attack or stroke. Hardening and thickening of the arteries due to high blood pressure or other factors can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.
  • Aneurysm. Increased blood pressure can cause a blood vessel to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening.
  • Heart failure. When you have high blood pressure, the heart has to work harder to pump blood. The strain causes the walls of the heart's pumping chamber to thicken. This condition is called left ventricular hypertrophy. Eventually, the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs, causing heart failure.
  • Kidney problems. High blood pressure can cause the blood vessels in the kidneys to become narrow or weak. This can lead to kidney damage.
  • Eye problems. Increased blood pressure can cause thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes. This can result in vision loss.
  • Metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a group of disorders of the body's metabolism. It involves the irregular breakdown of sugar, also called glucose. The syndrome includes increased waist size, high triglycerides, decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels. These conditions make you more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
  • Changes with memory or understanding. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may affect the ability to think, remember and learn.
  • Dementia. Narrowed or blocked arteries can limit blood flow to the brain. This can cause a certain type of dementia called vascular dementia. A stroke that interrupts blood flow to the brain also can cause vascular dementia.

More Information

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Sept. 15, 2022

FAQs

What are the causes of hypertension high blood pressure? ›

What causes high blood pressure? High blood pressure usually develops over time. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and having obesity, can also increase the risk for developing high blood pressure.

What is hypertension explain the causes and symptoms of hypertension? ›

High blood pressure is a common condition that affects the body's arteries. It's also called hypertension. If you have high blood pressure, the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high. The heart has to work harder to pump blood.

What are 10 causes of hypertension? ›

You might be more at risk if you:
  • are overweight.
  • eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables.
  • do not do enough exercise.
  • drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
  • smoke.
  • do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep.
  • are over 65.
  • have a relative with high blood pressure.

What are the symptoms when your high blood pressure is high? ›

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Lightheadedness/Fainting. Fatigue. Headache. Heart palpitations.

Can lack of sleep cause high blood pressure? ›

Insomnia is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Over time, poor sleep can also lead to unhealthy habits that can hurt your heart, including higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and unhealthy food choices.

Can hypertension be cured? ›

While there is no cure for high blood pressure, it is important for patients to take steps that matter, such as making effective lifestyle changes and taking BP-lowering medications as prescribed by their physicians.

Does stress cause hypertension? ›

There's no proof that stress by itself causes long-term high blood pressure. But reacting to stress in unhealthy ways can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Behaviors linked to higher blood pressure include: Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.

How do you explain hypertension in simple terms? ›

Hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the vessels.

What is the treatment of hypertension? ›

Calcium channel blockers reduce blood pressure by widening your blood vessels. Common examples are amlodipine, felodipine and nifedipine. Other medicines, such as diltiazem and verapamil, are also available. Possible side effects include headaches, swollen ankles and constipation.

What foods cause hypertension? ›

Foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated or trans fats can increase blood pressure and damage your heart health. By limiting these foods and replacing them with healthy options, you can keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

Can anxiety cause high blood pressure? ›

Anxiety doesn't cause long-term high blood pressure (hypertension). But episodes of anxiety can cause dramatic, temporary spikes in blood pressure.

What is the most common cause of hypertension nowadays? ›

What are the risk factors for hypertension? Modifiable risk factors include unhealthy diets (excessive salt consumption, a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats, low intake of fruits and vegetables), physical inactivity, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, and being overweight or obese.

What is the best position to sleep in with high blood pressure? ›

Sleeping on the left side is the best sleeping position for hypertension because it relieves blood pressure on blood vessels that return blood to the heart.

What causes blood pressure to not go down? ›

Possible causes of resistant hypertension

The accumulation of artery-clogging plaque in blood vessels that nourish the kidneys, a condition called renal artery stenosis. Sleep problems, such as the breath-holding type of snoring known as obstructive sleep apnea.

What position to lower blood pressure? ›

Sleeping on the left side is the best sleeping position for high blood pressure, as it relieves pressure on the blood vessels that return blood to the heart.

How long will I live with hypertension? ›

With that being said, research³ does show that although you can live a long life, it may be five to seven years shorter than those without high blood pressure. Some potential causes⁴ of this shorter life expectancy include smoking and obesity.

How long does it take for hypertension to go away? ›

“It may take a month to six weeks to bring your blood pressure down by slowly raising your medication doses,” Durso notes. “Lowering blood pressure too quickly can cause dizziness and increase the risk for falls.” Report side effects. “Don't stop medications on your own,” warns Durso.

Does drinking water lower blood pressure? ›

Something as simple as keeping yourself hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water every day improves blood pressure. Water makes up 73% of the human heart,¹ so no other liquid is better at controlling blood pressure.

Does coffee raise blood pressure? ›

Caffeine may cause a short, but dramatic increase in your blood pressure, even if you don't have high blood pressure. It's unclear what causes this spike in blood pressure. The blood pressure response to caffeine differs from person to person.

Can dehydration cause high blood pressure? ›

When your body is dehydrated, it releases higher amounts of a chemical called vasopressin. Vasopressin helps your kidneys retain water, which can prevent you from losing more water through urination. At the same time, it causes your blood vessels to constrict, which then causes your blood pressure to increase.

Can you reverse high blood pressure without medication? ›

Regular physical activity — such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. It's important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.

What organ regulates blood pressure? ›

The kidney is the main organ involved in controlling blood pressure. Blood pressure can be described as the resistance of the blood vessels acting against the blood flow generated by a heartbeat. The kidneys are able to regulate blood pressure through two main actions.

How is hypertension diagnosed? ›

Your health care provider will use a blood pressure test to see if you have higher-than-normal blood pressure readings. The reading is made up of two numbers, the systolic number and the diastolic number. These numbers are measures of pressure in mm HG (millimeters of mercury).

What are the 3 stages of hypertension? ›

High blood pressure is classified in one of several categories — and those designations can influence treatment. Doctors classify blood pressure into four categories: normal, prehypertension (mild), stage 1 (moderate) and stage 2 (severe).

What is the first drug of choice for hypertension? ›

Choice of initial therapy in most patients — The three primary options for antihypertensive drug therapy in most patients include an ACE inhibitor (or ARB), a calcium channel blocker, or a thiazide diuretic (preferably a thiazide-like diuretic) [3].

Can hypertension be treated at home? ›

There's no way to lower blood pressure levels immediately at home. Instead, you should develop a treatment plan with a doctor to reduce blood pressure levels in the long term, which may involve making changes to your diet, exercise routine, and lifestyle.

What are the best medicine for hypertension? ›

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), and beta blockers are recommended as first-choice medications in some younger adults with high blood pressure.
...
Common ACE Inhibitors include:
  • Benazepril.
  • Captopril.
  • Enalapril.
  • Lisinopril.
  • Quinapril.
  • Ramipril.
Feb 24, 2022

Are eggs good for high blood pressure? ›

Summary. Egg consumption has no significant effects on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults. Due to several limitations among existing studies, general conclusions cannot be drawn regarding the beneficial or neutral impact of egg consumption on blood pressure in adults.

Which vegetable is good for high blood pressure? ›

13 foods that help lower blood pressure
  • romaine lettuce.
  • arugula.
  • kale.
  • turnip greens.
  • collard greens.
  • spinach.
  • beet greens.
  • Swiss chard.

Can sugar cause high blood pressure? ›

Eating too much sugar can inhibit the production of nitric oxide (NO) in blood vessels. Nitric oxide normally helps with vasodilation (expanding of the blood vessels). Without NO, vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) can result, leading to high blood pressure.

What is the main symptoms of anxiety? ›

Signs and Symptoms
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge.
  • Being easily fatigued.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Being irritable.
  • Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains.
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Does blood pressure increase with age? ›

Your body's network of blood vessels, known as the vascular system, changes with age. Arteries get stiffer, causing blood pressure to go up. This can be true even for people who have heart-healthy habits and feel just fine.

What lifestyle causes hypertension? ›

The development of hypertension is related to both genetic and lifestyle factors. Genetic factors include age, gender, body shape, and family history, and lifestyle factors include excessive drinking, smoking, poor eating habits, and reduced physical activity3,4,5,6,7).

What is the biggest risk for hypertension? ›

Unhealthy Diet

A diet that is too high in sodium and too low in potassium puts you at risk for high blood pressure. Eating too much sodium—an element in table salt—increases blood pressure. Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed and restaurant foods. Learn more about sodium and high blood pressure.

Can hypertension come on suddenly? ›

Malignant hypertension is very high blood pressure that comes on suddenly and quickly.

What are the types and causes of hypertension? ›

There are two types of hypertension:
  • Primary: High blood pressure that is not related to another medical condition.
  • Secondary: Another medical condition that causes high blood pressure, usually occurring in the kidneys, arteries, heart, or endocrine system. Examples include: Sleep problems like sleep apnea.

What causes hypotension? ›

Causes include dehydration, long-term bed rest, pregnancy, certain medical conditions and some medications. This type of low blood pressure is common in older adults. Postprandial hypotension. This drop in blood pressure occurs 1 to 2 hours after eating.

Which disease is caused by hypertension? ›

Untreated hypertension may lead to serious health problems including: Stroke. Heart attack. Peripheral vascular disease.

Which type of hypertension is life threatening? ›

Malignant hypertension occurs when your blood pressure rises extremely quickly. If your diastolic pressure goes over 130, you may have malignant hypertension. This is a medical emergency and should be treated in a hospital.

What is a silent stroke? ›

What does that mean? A. A silent stroke refers to a stroke that doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms. Most strokes are caused by a clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The blockage prevents blood and oxygen from reaching that area, causing nearby brain cells to die.

What is a good blood pressure for a 70 year old? ›

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) updated their guidelines in 2017 to recommend men and women who are 65 or older aim for a blood pressure lower than 130/80 mm Hg.

Does high blood pressure make you tired? ›

High blood pressure causes tiredness as a result of elevated pressure on vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys. Often though, medication plays a larger role in contributing to fatigue than the actual condition does. Tiredness is often a common side effect of many medications used to lower blood pressure.

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