High Blood PressureHigh blood pressure or hypertension means high pressure (tension) in the arteries. Arteries are vessels that carry blood from the pumping heart to all the tissues and organs of the body.

Normal blood pressure is 120/80. The first number, the systolic blood pressure, represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood forward into the arteries. The bottom number, the diastolic pressure, represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes after the contraction. The diastolic pressure (lower number) reflects the lowest pressure to which the arteries are exposed.

An increase in either of these numbers for measuring blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, hardening of the arteries, eye damage, and stroke. These situations or problems are often considered the result of a chronic high blood pressure condition. For that reason, the diagnosis of high blood pressure is important so efforts can be made to control blood pressure and prevent situations such as heart attack, stroke and others.

The American Heart Association estimates high blood pressure affects approximately one in three adults in the United States — 73 million people. High blood pressure is also estimated to affect about two million American teens and children, and the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that many are underdiagnosed.

Find out what can be done about high blood pressure