Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Hypertension or high blood pressure occurs when the blood flows with too much force through the arteries, stretching the arteries beyond a healthy limit and causing microscopic tears. Though the body naturally repairs these tears with scar tissue that tissue also traps plaque and white blood cells, which can turn into blockages, blood clots, and hardened, weakened arteries. These effects in turn prevent blood flow and cause heart tissue to die, causing further severe conditions such as stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and heart failure.

Blood pressure measures the force pushing against your arterial walls. A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers, systolic and diastolic. The systolic blood pressure is usually the higher number on the top that shows the pressure on the arteries when the heart is beating or contracting. This usually increases as you get older, but is given more attention as it can be major risk factor for heart disease for those 50 years and over. Diastolic blood pressure is the lower number at the bottom that measures the pressure on the arteries between heart beats or when the heart is resting.

A normal level of blood pressure is less than 120 mm Hg systolic AND less than 80 mm Hg diastolic, so less than 120/80 mm Hg, for ages 20 and over.