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High blood pressure (hypertension) is when the force of blood pumping through the arteries is too strong. The arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart throughout the body. Hypertension forces the heart to work harder to pump blood and may cause arteries to become narrow or stiff. Untreated or uncontrolled hypertension can cause a heart attack, heart failure, a stroke, kidney disease, and other problems.
A blood pressure reading consists of a higher number over a lower number. Ideally, your blood pressure should be below 120/80. The first ("top") number is called the systolic pressure. It is a measure of the pressure in your arteries as your heart beats. The second ("bottom") number is called the diastolic pressure. It is a measure of the pressure in your arteries as the heart relaxes.
The exact cause of this condition is not known. There are some conditions that result in or are related to high blood pressure.
This condition is diagnosed by measuring your blood pressure while you are seated, with your arm resting on a flat surface, your legs uncrossed, and your feet flat on the floor. The cuff of the blood pressure monitor will be placed directly against the skin of your upper arm at the level of your heart. It should be measured at least twice using the same arm. Certain conditions can cause a difference in blood pressure between your right and left arms.
If you are diagnosed with hypertension, you may have other blood or imaging tests to help your health care provider understand your overall risk for other conditions.
Your personal target blood pressure may vary depending on your medical conditions, your age, and other factors.
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This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.
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