Risks of High Blood Pressure

Risk of High Blood PressureHigh blood pressure or hypertension means high pressure in the arteries. The arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the pumping heart to all of the tissues and organs of the body.

High blood pressure does not mean excessive emotional tension, although emotional tension and stress can temporarily increase the blood pressure.

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80; blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is called pre-hypertension, and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered high blood pressure. The top number is called systolic blood pressure. It represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood into the arteries. The bottom number is called diastolic pressure. It represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes after the contraction. The diastolic pressure, therefore, reflects the minimum pressure to which the arteries are exposed.

An elevation of the systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), eye damage, and stroke (brain damage). These complications of hypertension are often referred to as end-organ damage because harm to these organs is the end result of chronic high blood pressure. Thus, the diagnosis of high blood pressure is important so that efforts can be made to normalize the blood pressure and, thereby, prevent the complications. As many people suffer from hypertension all over the world, it is clearly a major public health problem.

Whereas it was previously thought that diastolic blood pressure elevations were a more important risk factor than systolic elevations, it is now known that for people older than 50 years of age systolic hypertension represents a greater risk.