High Blood Pressure - The Silent Killer

The circulatory system functions as a close circuit comprising of blood, vessels and the heart. A certain amount of blood circulates through the blood vessels, pumped by the heart. This blood reaches tiny blood vessels in the lungs and other organs, where the gas exchanges take place. Then the blood returns to the heart through other blood vessels and will be pumped out again by the heart. In this circuit, blood pressure remains stable; however, it can vary if one of its components changes. These components include:

• Width of the blood vessels
• Heart’s pumping function
• Blood volume

High blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as high pressure (tension) in the arteries, which are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers. The systolic blood pressure (the top number) equals the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts. The diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes. 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 while a systolic blood pressure of about 90 to 100 is considered low blood pressure.

Complications of high blood pressure include heart disease, kidney (renal) disease, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis), eye damage, and stroke (brain damage).

What causes high blood pressure?

There are several factors whose combined effects produce hypertension.

  • High salt intake or salt sensitivity.
  • People who are obese or people with kidney (renal) problems.
  • Genetic predisposition - people who have one or two parents with hypertension.
  • A particular abnormality of the arteries, which results in an increased resistance (stiffness or lack of elasticity) in the tiny arteries (arterioles).

Symptoms of hypertension

Hypertension may not have any symptoms and is therefore been labeled "the silent killer. Some people experience symptoms which included:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling of pulsations in the neck or head
  • Nausea

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

To make an official diagnosis of high blood pressure you will need to see your doctor. Often your blood pressure will be checked on at least two different visits, at different times of the day. Your doctor may ask you to keep a blood pressure log for a short time in order to see your overall blood pressure trends. If your blood pressure is consistently over 140/90, your doctor will work with you to determine the best regimen for treating your high blood pressure.

What is the treatment for high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is caused by many different factors, so there are many different treatments. The goal of treating high blood pressure is to keep the blood pressure below 140/90. Treatments for high blood pressure include:

  • Lifestyle modifications
    • Quit smoking
    • Lose weight
    • Exercise
  • Medications: There are many different categories of blood pressure medications. Your doctor will work with you to find the right one.
  • Diet:
    • Follow a low-sodium, low-fat diet.
    • Limit caffeine intake.
    • Reduce alcohol intake.
    • Eat more fruit, vegetables and fish.
    • Eat more fiber.
  • Treatment of underlying conditions that cause high blood pressure, such as:
    • Renal artery stenosis.
    • Congestive heart failure.
    • Diabetes.
    • Obesity
Blood Pressure
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
Normal less than 120 and less than 80
Prehypertension 120 – 139 or 80 – 89
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1
140 – 159 or 90 – 99
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2
160 or higher or 100 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis
(Emergency care needed)
Higher than 180 or Higher than 110







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