High blood pressure is a common condition that affects the body’s arteries. It’s also called hypertension. If you have high blood pressure, the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high. The heart has to work harder to pump blood.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). In general, hypertension is a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association divide blood pressure into four general categories. Ideal blood pressure is categorized as normal.)
Normal blood pressure. Blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or lower.
Elevated blood pressure. The top number ranges from 120 to 129 mm Hg and the bottom number is below, not above, 80 mm Hg.
Stage 1 hypertension. The top number ranges from 130 to 139 mm Hg or the bottom number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
Stage 2 hypertension. The top number is 140 mm Hg or higher or the bottom number is 90 mm Hg or higher.
Blood pressure higher than 180/120 mm Hg is considered a hypertensive emergency or crisis. Seek emergency medical help for anyone with these blood pressure numbers.
Untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious health problems. It’s important to have your blood pressure checked at least every two years starting at age 18. Some people need more-frequent checks.
Healthy lifestyle habits —such as not smoking, exercising and eating well — can help prevent and treat high blood pressure. Some people need medicine to treat high blood pressure.
Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms.
A few people with high blood pressure may have:
Shortness of breath
However, these symptoms aren’t specific. They usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.