What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, is when the pressure in your blood is higher than it should be. Over time, it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of the body leading to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure. For an infographic on Hypertension, click here.

Signs and Symptoms

High blood pressure is called the "silent killer" because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it. There's only one way to know whether you have high blood pressure-have a doctor or other health professional measure it. Measuring your blood pressure is quick and painless.

Hypertension Statistics

  • About 70 million American adults (29%) have high blood pressure-that's 1 of every 3 adults
  • Only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have it under control
  • Nearly 1 of 3 American adults has blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal but not yet in the high blood pressure range; they are pre-hypertensive
  • High blood pressure costs the nation $46 billion each year in health care services, medications to treat high blood pressure, and missed days of work
  • African Americans develop high blood pressure more often, and at an earlier age, than whites and Hispanics do. More African American women than men have high blood pressure
  • Nearly 1 in 7 adults (15%) are undiagnosed

Preventing Hypertension

Healthy Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure. To determine if your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 25.0 or above increases the risk of hypertension. To calculate your BMI, click here. To reduce your weight, incorporate a healthy diet and more physical activity.

Healthy Diet: Consume low sodium foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Adopting a DASH eating plan has shown to reduce blood pressure. To learn more about DASH, click here

Dietary Sodium Reduction: Everyone age 2 and up should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. If you have high blood pressure, you should reduce dietary sodium intake to no more than 1,500 mg per day. Some groups of people should further limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, including: adults age 51 or older, all African Americans, and anyone who has high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Physical Activity: Adults should aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, most days (or 2 ½ hours a week). Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.

Don't Smoke: Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.

Limit Alcohol: Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women only 1.


Resources for Healthcare Professionals

Dates to Remember

February - American Heart Month
May - National High Blood Pressure Education Month
May 17- World Hypertension Day