Hypertension diagnosis

Hypertension is when blood pressure, the blood's force against the walls of the arteries, is consistently abnormally high in relation to age. It is a major public health problem that often requires long-term medication. More than one in four American adults have high blood pressure and more than 50 per cent of Americans over the age of 65 may be affected. It is the most prevalent form of cardiovascular disease and, if left untreated, can lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

Hypertension diagnosisDiagnosis of hypertension

A normal blood pressure reading for adults is considered to be around 120/80 mmHg. The first number represents the systolic pressure (the pressure when the heart is contracting) and the second number is the diastolic pressure (the pressure when the heart is relaxed). A high blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above.

High blood pressure can be divided into two major categories. When high blood pressure occurs without apparent cause, it is known as primary or essential hypertension; and when it occurs because of another disease, such as poor kidney function, it is known as secondary hypertension. Anyone can have temporary high blood pressure, resulting from excitement, nervousness, exertion, anger, fatigue, cold or smoking. In hypertension, high blood pressure is sustained over a period of time.

Blood pressure tends to rise with age but hypertension can also occur in children and teenagers, with increased risk of disease later in life. Most younger sufferers have a family history of hypertension and tend to be overweight.

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