Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels), which carry the blood throughout the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and it contributes to hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis and the development of heart failure.
What Is "Normal" Blood Pressure?
There are several categories of blood pressure, including:
- Normal: Less than 120/80
- Prehypertension: 120-139/80-89
- Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159/90-99
- Stage 2 hypertension: 160 and above/100 and above
People whose blood pressure is above the normal range should consult their doctor about methods for lowering it.
What Causes Hypertension?
The exact causes of hypertension are not known. Several factors and conditions may play a role in its development, including:
- Being overweight
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much salt in the diet
- Too much alcohol consumption (no more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
- Older age
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid disorders
There are usually no symptoms or signs of hypertension. In fact, nearly one-third of those who have it don't know it. The only way to know if you have hypertension definitely is to have your blood pressure checked.
If your blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, including:
- Severe headache
- Fatigue or confusion
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood in the urine