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 Hypertension, Adult, Easy-to-Read

Hypertension, Adult

Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. High blood pressure forces your heart to work harder to pump blood. This can cause problems over time.

There are two numbers in a blood pressure reading. There is a top number (systolic) over a bottom number (diastolic). It is best to have a blood pressure that is below 120/80. Healthy choices can help lower your blood pressure, or you may need medicine to help lower it.

What are the causes?

The cause of this condition is not known. Some conditions may be related to high blood pressure.

What increases the risk?

  • Smoking.
  • Having type 2 diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, or both.
  • Not getting enough exercise or physical activity.
  • Being overweight.
  • Having too much fat, sugar, calories, or salt (sodium) in your diet.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Having long-term (chronic) kidney disease.
  • Having a family history of high blood pressure.
  • Age. Risk increases with age.
  • Race. You may be at higher risk if you are African American.
  • Gender. Men are at higher risk than women before age 45. After age 65, women are at higher risk than men.
  • Having obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Stress.

What are the signs or symptoms?

  • High blood pressure may not cause symptoms. Very high blood pressure (hypertensive crisis) may cause:
    • Headache.
    • Feelings of worry or nervousness (anxiety).
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nosebleed.
    • A feeling of being sick to your stomach (nausea).
    • Throwing up (vomiting).
    • Changes in how you see.
    • Very bad chest pain.
    • Seizures.

How is this treated?

  • This condition is treated by making healthy lifestyle changes, such as:
    • Eating healthy foods.
    • Exercising more.
    • Drinking less alcohol.
  • Your health care provider may prescribe medicine if lifestyle changes are not enough to get your blood pressure under control, and if:
    • Your top number is above 130.
    • Your bottom number is above 80.
  • Your personal target blood pressure may vary.

Follow these instructions at home:

Eating and drinking

  • If told, follow the DASH eating plan. To follow this plan:
    • Fill one half of your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables.
    • Fill one fourth of your plate at each meal with whole grains. Whole grains include whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole-grain bread.
    • Eat or drink low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk or low-fat yogurt.
    • Fill one fourth of your plate at each meal with low-fat (lean) proteins. Low-fat proteins include fish, chicken without skin, eggs, beans, and tofu.
    • Avoid fatty meat, cured and processed meat, or chicken with skin.
    • Avoid pre-made or processed food.
  • Eat less than 1,500 mg of salt each day.
  • Do not drink alcohol if:
    • Your doctor tells you not to drink.
    • You are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant.
  • If you drink alcohol:
    • Limit how much you use to:
      • 0–1 drink a day for women.
      • 0–2 drinks a day for men.
    • Be aware of how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink equals one 12 oz bottle of beer (355 mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148 mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44 mL).


  • Work with your doctor to stay at a healthy weight or to lose weight. Ask your doctor what the best weight is for you.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. This may include walking, swimming, or biking.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise that strengthens your muscles (resistance exercise) at least 3 days a week. This may include lifting weights or doing Pilates.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.
  • Check your blood pressure at home as told by your doctor.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor. This is important.


  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor. Follow directions carefully.
  • Do not skip doses of blood pressure medicine. The medicine does not work as well if you skip doses. Skipping doses also puts you at risk for problems.
  • Ask your doctor about side effects or reactions to medicines that you should watch for.

Contact a doctor if you:

  • Think you are having a reaction to the medicine you are taking.
  • Have headaches that keep coming back (recurring).
  • Feel dizzy.
  • Have swelling in your ankles.
  • Have trouble with your vision.

Get help right away if you:

  • Get a very bad headache.
  • Start to feel mixed up (confused).
  • Feel weak or numb.
  • Feel faint.
  • Have very bad pain in your:
    • Chest.
    • Belly (abdomen).
  • Throw up more than once.
  • Have trouble breathing.


  • Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure forces your heart to work harder to pump blood.
  • For most people, a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.
  • Making healthy choices can help lower blood pressure. If your blood pressure does not get lower with healthy choices, you may need to take medicine.

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.