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High Blood Pressure (AKA Hypertension or HBP) - What is it?

Updated on June 19, 2013

Blood Pressure Range Chart

This chart shows the American Heart Association blood pressure ranges.
This chart shows the American Heart Association blood pressure ranges.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because too many times people do not realize they have problems with their blood pressure until it is too late. My goal with this article is to raise awareness of what high blood pressure is and the warning signs that someone may be suffering from this disorder. High blood pressure is sometimes referred to as HBP or Hypertension (note: hypertension does not have anything to do with being overly anxious, hyper, or tense; rather it has nothing to do with traits attributed to personality.) Statistically speaking, approximately 1 in 3 adult Americans suffer from HBP.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is actually the measurement of the force in which your blood pushes outward on your arterial walls while pumping through your body. High blood pressure means the force is higher than that of the normal range.

Why is keeping my Blood Pressure under Control Important?

If not treated, high blood pressure damages and scars the arteries and increases the likelihood of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, and peripheral vascular disease. After extended times of untreated HBP, people can suffer from a number of health problems including: vascular weakness (weak veins/arteries), vascular scarring, increased risk of blood clots, plaque and cholesterol build up in the veins/arteries, tissue and organ damage (from blocked arteries/veins), and excessive work on the circulatory system.

What is normal blood pressure?

When your blood pressure is taken, you get two numbers. The systolic reading (often referred to as the top number) measures blood pressure when the heart beats (as the heart contracts). The diastolic reading (often referred to as the bottom number) measures blood pressure while the blood is in the veins and arties (as the heart is at rest & refilling with blood). Generally the top number is considered more critical as an indicator of high blood pressure in people older than 50 years old. Systolic blood pressure often increases with age. Please note that a single incident of high blood pressure does not mean that you need to take medication. Instead high blood pressure is more effectively diagnosed by a pattern of high blood pressure readings. The chart (on the right side of the screen and another at the bottom) was borrowed from the American Heart Association web site and shows the ranges for normal and high blood pressure.

What is Hypertensive Crisis?

Hypertensive Crisis is when blood pressure reaches a critically and dangerously high level (systolic of 180 or higher and diastolic of 110 or higher). It is divided into Hypertensive Urgency and Hypertensive Emergency. Hypertensive Urgency means that the blood pressure is critically high but it not causing damage to vital organs. Hypertensive crisis is usually identified as hypertensive urgency when blood pressure reaches 180/110. Hypertensive Emergency is when blood pressure is critically high to the point of causing damage to vital organs. It is usually identified when blood pressure reaches 180/120. If someone is experiencing Hypertensive Crisis of any kind, they should seek out medical attention immediately.

Signs and Symptoms of HBP and Hypertensive Crisis

Often times with high blood pressure there are no symptoms. That is why so many people die from HBP without ever knowing they had a history of it. Some people report symptoms of headache, nosebleed, facial flushing, dizziness, or blood spots in the eye; however, research has not supported these symptoms as occurring in most cases. Hypertensive Crisis often has the following symptoms: severe headache, severe anxiety, shortness of breath, and nosebleeds.

Why is it important to control my Blood Pressure?

Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure or Hypertensive Crisis can lead to the severe medical consequences including death. Some of the problems HBP (uncontrolled) leads to includes: stroke, heart attack, memory loss, unconsciousness, damage to eyes and kidneys, loss of kidney function, angina (chest pain), aortic dissection, fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema), and eclampsia.

I hope this article is educational and will help someone who may not know they are struggling with high blood pressure. I learned a lot just researching the topic myself.


Blood Pressure ranges from the AHA

Blood Pressure Ranges
Systolic (upper #)
Diastolic (lower #)
120 or below
Prehypertension (Borderline)
HBP - Stage 1
HBP - Stage 2
160 or higher
100 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis - Help Needed
Higher than 180
Higher than 110


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    • Sara Algoe profile image

      Sara Algoe 5 years ago from Phoenix, Ariz

      Nice info really useful. My mom needs to read this.