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

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

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

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • 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

Select An Article

Understanding High Blood Pressure -- the Basics

Font Size

What Is High Blood Pressure? continued...

People with blood pressure readings of 140/90 or higher, taken on at least two occasions, are said to have high blood pressure. For those over age 60, readings of 150/90 or higher indicate high blood pressure. If the pressure remains high, your doctor will probably begin treatment. People with blood pressure readings of 180/120 or higher need treatment immediately.

Researchers have identified people with blood pressures slightly higher than 120/80 as a category at high risk for developing hypertension. This condition is called pre-hypertension and affects an estimated 50 million American men and women. Pre-hypertension is now known to increase the likelihood of damage to arteries and the heart, brain, and kidneys, so many doctors are now recommending earlier treatment, though there is no evidence that this helps in the long run.

Even so, many people with high blood pressure don't realize they have the condition. Indeed, hypertension is often called "the silent killer" because it rarely causes symptoms, even as it inflicts serious damage to the body. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to vision problems, as well as to heart attack, stroke, and other potentially fatal conditions, including kidney failure.

Hypertension may also lead to heart failure, a common but disabling condition that can cause breathing problems. Critically ill patients who have very high blood pressure are said to have malignant hypertension, with a diastolic pressure usually exceeding 120 or a systolic pressure above 180. Malignant hypertension is a dangerous condition that may develop rapidly and cause organ damage quickly. It requires immediate medical attention.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be controlled effectively. The first step is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Who Gets Hypertension?

High blood pressure is more likely in people who:

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

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