Hypertension is defined as blood pressure higher than 140 over 90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).
A diagnosis of hypertension may be made when one or both readings are high: systolic (the pressure as the heart pumps blood around the body), given first; or diastolic (pressure as the heart relaxes and refills with blood), given second.
Modern lifestyle factors are responsible for a growing burden of hypertension: physical inactivity, salt-rich diets with processed and fatty foods, and alcohol and tobacco use.
High blood pressure can also be secondary to other conditions - kidney disease, for example - and can be associated with some medications.
Hypertension itself does not cause symptoms but in the long-term leads to complications caused by narrowing of blood vessels.
Doctors diagnose high blood pressure over a number of visits using a sphygmomanometer, which involves applying an inflatable cuff to the upper arm.
Lifestyle measures are used first to treat high blood pressure, including salt restriction and other dietary changes, moderation of alcohol, and stress reduction.
One or more drugs from a number of different classes may be used for treatment.
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