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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:High blood pressure means that blood has difficulty reaching the heart. True or False?

A:False. High blood pressure (also called hypertension and HBP) causes the heart to work harder to pump blood to the body.

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Q:What is the definition of blood pressure?

A: Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against artery walls as it courses through the body. Just as too much air pressure can damage a tire, high blood pressure can threaten healthy arteries and lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

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Q:High blood pressure is the most common cardiovascular disease. True or False?

A:True. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the most common cardiovascular disease. Hypertension is the leading cause of strokes and a major cause of heart attacks. In the United States alone, approximately 73 million people have high blood pressure.

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Q:Which diseases or conditions are related to hypertension?

A:Brain aneurysm, dizziness, and stroke. There are many diseases and conditions related to hypertension and its complications, including: brain aneurysm, brain hemorrhage, blood clots, chest pain, congestive heart failure, dizziness, heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, fatigue, gout, stroke, kidney stones, smell disorders, sleep apnea, and snoring.

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Q:What do the two measurements of blood pressure determine?

A:Artery pressure due to heartbeats, artery pressure between heartbeats and high, low, or normal blood pressure. When a heart beats, it contracts and pushes blood through the arteries to the rest of the body, creating systolic blood pressure on the arteries. The diastolic blood pressure indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. Based on the findings, doctors can determine high, low, or normal blood pressure and any associated health risks.

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Q:Your blood pressure is 120/80: Which number indicates diastolic pressure?

A:80. As an example, when a doctor says your pressure is "120 over 80," diastolic blood pressure is represented by the bottom number (80), and indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

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Q:In most people with hypertension, no cause can be found. True or False?

A:True. In about 95% of reported high blood pressure cases in the U.S., the underlying cause cannot be determined. This type of high blood pressure is called essential or primary hypertension. Secondary hypertension describes a condition when a direct cause for hypertension can be identified (such as kidney disease or sleep apnea).

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Q:Hypertension is a common cause for erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. True or False?

A:True. People with essential hypertension or arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) have an increased risk of developing erectile dysfunction (impotence or ED). Those with essential hypertension have been found to have low production of nitric oxide by the arteries of the body, including the arteries in the penis.

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Q:Hypertension is commonly called?

A:The silent killer. High blood pressure is called the 'silent killer' because it has no symptoms until it causes major damage to the body. However, when blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, including: - Severe headache - Fatigue or confusion - Vision problems - Chest pain - Difficulty breathing - Irregular heartbeat - Blood in the urine - Pounding in the chest, neck, or ears NOTE: If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. You could be having a hypertensive crisis that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.

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Q:High blood pressure can usually be cured. True or False?

A:False. High blood pressure usually cannot be cured, but in most cases it can be prevented and controlled with medication and lifestyle changes.

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Q:What is a normal blood pressure reading?

A:Less than 120 / 80.
Know Your Numbers!
Normal: Less than 120 / 80
Prehypertension: 121-139 / 80-89
Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159 / 90-99
Stage 2 hypertension: greater than 160 / greater than 100

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Q:What should I avoid eating or drinking while taking medication for blood pressure?

A:Grapefruit juice. Grapefruit juice blocks intestinal enzymes that destroy many medications and prevents their absorption into the body. When the action of this enzyme is blocked, more of the drugs get into the body and the blood levels of these medications increase, which can lead to toxic side effects from antihypertensive medications.

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Q:If you have hypertension, you should limit and/or avoid?

A:Alcohol and smoking, caffeine, salt, obesity (excess body fat or BMI of 30 and above). High salt intake, obesity, lack of regular exercise, excessive alcohol or coffee intake, and smoking may all adversely affect the outlook for the health of an individual with hypertension.

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Q:What increases your risk of having high blood pressure?

A:Family history of hypertension, being overweight or obese and Lack of exercise or physical activity. Risk factors for high blood pressure include: A family history of high blood pressure; aging; eating foods with a lot of sodium (salt); drinking more than 2 alcohol drinks a day for men; or more than 1 per day for women ; being overweight or obese, lack of exercise or physical activity, high cholesterol; race: African Americans are more likely to get high blood pressure, often have more severe high blood pressure, and are more likely to get the condition at an earlier age than others. Why African Americans are at greater risk is not known.

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