High blood pressure (hypertension)High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of blood against artery walls is too strong. Over time, high blood pressure can damage the arteries, heart, and kidneys and can lead to heart disease and stroke.
High blood pressure can be treated effectively with lifestyle changes and medications that can reduce the risk of complications.
Blood pressure readings consist of an upper number and a lower number (such as 120 over 90 or 120/90). The upper number is systolic blood pressure; the lower number is diastolic blood pressure. Blood pressure readings are measured in units called millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Normal blood pressure is 119 mm Hg systolic over 79 mm Hg diastolic or below.
A person has high blood pressure (hypertension) when either or both of the following are present:
- The top number (systolic) is 140 mm Hg or higher.
- The bottom number (diastolic) is 90 mm Hg or higher.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition|
|Last Revised||April 10, 2009|
Coronary Artery DiseaseCoronary artery disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on the inside of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Plaque is made up of excess cholesterol, calcium, and other substances that float in blood and, over time, build up on the inside walls of the coronary arteries and other arteries.
This process of plaque buildup is called hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. The plaque deposits decrease the space through which blood can flow. Poor blood flow can "starve" the heart muscle and lead to chest pain. A heart attack results when blood flow is completely blocked, usually by a blood clot forming over a plaque that has broken open (ruptured).
Coronary artery disease is treated with lifestyle changes, such as increasing exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, and stopping smoking. Coronary artery disease also is treated with medicines to help reduce high cholesterol, control high blood pressure, and manage other risk factors.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology|
|Last Revised||May 1, 2010|