Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

High Blood Pressure: The Invisible Health Risk

It has no symptoms, but kills 50,000 Americans a year.

WebMD Feature

It's 2005: Do you know what your blood pressure should be? Within the last two years, a number of new studies have led doctors to rethink their conclusions about what defines high blood pressure (hint: it's lower than you think), and the best approaches to treating this deceptively symptom-free disease.

More than 50 million Americans aged 6 and older now have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Only one in three is keeping their blood pressure under control with medication, lifestyle measures, or both. You could be one of them and not even know it: 30% of people with hypertension have no idea they have it.

Recommended Related to Hypertension

5 Lifestyle Tips to Lower High Blood Pressure

Want to know exactly how much certain lifestyle changes can affect your blood pressure? Take a look at the numbers. The Change: Lose weight. The Payoff: You’ll lower your systolic blood pressure (the first number in your blood pressure results) by 5 to 20 points for every 20 pounds you lose. In fact, if you're overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can help lower blood pressure. The weight loss goal is to get your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. The Change: Follow the...

Read the 5 Lifestyle Tips to Lower High Blood Pressure article > >

High blood pressure is easy to ignore, because it has no symptoms other than numbers on a blood pressure cuff. But its silence is deadly. Hypertension killed nearly 50,000 Americans in 2001, and the rates continue to rise, according to the American Heart Association. Uncontrolled high blood pressure puts you at risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, and a host of other problems.

Think You're Safe? Check Again

Within the last two years, we've learned that blood pressure levels we once thought were "safe" may not be. "We used to say that risky blood pressure levels didn't begin until around 140/90, but it's now become clear from more recent studies that the risk probably begins somewhere between 115 to 120 over 75 to 80," says Elijah Saunders MD, professor of medicine and head of the section of hypertension in the division of cardiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "So we now use 120/80 as a round figure for where risk begins."

Doctors have coined the term "prehypertension" to describe people whose blood pressure is above 120/80, but not yet at 140/90. "We believe these people are at higher risk, and studies show that they do have lots of the same hypertension complications that we thought didn't occur until blood pressure was much higher," Saunders says.

Recent studies funded by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality estimate that as many as two-thirds of people between the ages of 45 and 64 might have prehypertension. That the rate is significantly higher for those 65 and over. If you have other complicating conditions -- particularly diabetes and kidney problems -- along with prehypertension, doctors now recommend treating your blood pressure aggressively with drugs to help lower your risk of heart attack or stroke.

What if only the top number is high? That's your systolic pressure, and research now shows us that it's more important in determining whether or not you have hypertension. If your systolic pressure is high but your diastolic pressure is normal, you still have hypertension and you're still at risk. "High systolic pressure is a very powerful risk factor for cardiovascular complications," says Saunders. "It's also responsible for most uncontrolled hypertension."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

blood pressure
Symptoms, causes, and more.
headache
Learn the causes.
 
Compressed heart
5 habits to change.
Mature man floating in pool, goggles on head
Exercises that help.
 
heart healthy living
ARTICLE
Erectile Dysfunction Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Bernstein Hypertension Affects Cardiac Risk
VIDEO
Compressed heart
Article
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
thumbnail for lowering choloesterol slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Low Blood Pressure
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections