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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

A condition present when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal. Also called high blood pressure. Hypertension can strain the heart, damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, and death.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, also called "hypertension," is a serious medical condition. It happens when the force of the blood pumping through your arteries is too strong.

When your heart beats, it pushes blood through your arteries to the rest of your body. When the blood pushes harder against the walls of your arteries, your blood pressure goes up. Your blood pressure may be different at different times of the day. It is usually higher when you first wake up, after you exercise, or when you are under stress.

Having higher blood pressure for short amounts of time is normal. However, when your blood pressure stays high for most of the time, it can cause serious health problems... Read more about High Blood Pressure

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Tight control of mild‐to‐moderate high blood pressure for pregnant women with pre‐existing or gestational hypertension (without protein in the urine) to improve health outcomes 

High blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or more or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or more. In the general population, a tight control of blood pressure reduces cardiovascular risks and is particularly important for people with diabetes or renal disease. Having high blood pressure during pregnancy is a complex clinical condition. Adverse effects include premature separation of the placenta (abruption), low birthweight, and perinatal death. Women who do not have regular antenatal care, those with severe uncontrolled hypertension and pre‐eclampsia are more likely to have poor outcomes. A woman with mild‐to‐moderate hypertension could develop severe hypertension if not managed correctly. On the other hand, lowering blood pressure dramatically may reduce placental perfusion, which could lead to fetal growth restriction, without providing extra benefit to the mother. There is no consensus regarding a clear goal of adjusting blood pressure in pregnant women with mild‐to‐moderate hypertension.

Screening for High Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [Internet]

We conducted this systematic review to support the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in updating its recommendation on screening for high blood pressure (BP) in nonpregnant adults.

Methyldopa reduces blood pressure in people with high blood pressure

Methyldopa is a medication that has been used to treat high blood pressure since the 1960s. While there is some belief methyldopa reduces blood pressure, there are concerns due to the potential for this drug to cause adverse effects. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which methyldopa reduces blood pressure, the nature of methyldopa's adverse effect profile, and to determine the clinical impact of its use for hypertension.The search revealed 12 trials with a total of 595 patients that were randomized to either a methyldopa treatment arm (296 patients) or a placebo treatment arm (299 patients). The daily doses of methyldopa used in these studies ranged 500‐2250 mg daily. The most commonly studied daily dose of methyldopa was 750 mg daily. Most studies followed patients for four to six weeks of therapy. None of the studies reported on the clinical impact of methyldopa (e.g. if methyldopa reduced the risk of having a stroke compared to placebo). Overall reporting of adverse effects was poor so no conclusions can be drawn about the adverse effect profile. This meta‐analysis shows that methyldopa reduces systolic/diastolic blood pressure by approximately 13/8 mmHg compared to placebo.

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Summaries for consumers

Tight control of mild‐to‐moderate high blood pressure for pregnant women with pre‐existing or gestational hypertension (without protein in the urine) to improve health outcomes 

High blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or more or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or more. In the general population, a tight control of blood pressure reduces cardiovascular risks and is particularly important for people with diabetes or renal disease. Having high blood pressure during pregnancy is a complex clinical condition. Adverse effects include premature separation of the placenta (abruption), low birthweight, and perinatal death. Women who do not have regular antenatal care, those with severe uncontrolled hypertension and pre‐eclampsia are more likely to have poor outcomes. A woman with mild‐to‐moderate hypertension could develop severe hypertension if not managed correctly. On the other hand, lowering blood pressure dramatically may reduce placental perfusion, which could lead to fetal growth restriction, without providing extra benefit to the mother. There is no consensus regarding a clear goal of adjusting blood pressure in pregnant women with mild‐to‐moderate hypertension.

Methyldopa reduces blood pressure in people with high blood pressure

Methyldopa is a medication that has been used to treat high blood pressure since the 1960s. While there is some belief methyldopa reduces blood pressure, there are concerns due to the potential for this drug to cause adverse effects. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which methyldopa reduces blood pressure, the nature of methyldopa's adverse effect profile, and to determine the clinical impact of its use for hypertension.The search revealed 12 trials with a total of 595 patients that were randomized to either a methyldopa treatment arm (296 patients) or a placebo treatment arm (299 patients). The daily doses of methyldopa used in these studies ranged 500‐2250 mg daily. The most commonly studied daily dose of methyldopa was 750 mg daily. Most studies followed patients for four to six weeks of therapy. None of the studies reported on the clinical impact of methyldopa (e.g. if methyldopa reduced the risk of having a stroke compared to placebo). Overall reporting of adverse effects was poor so no conclusions can be drawn about the adverse effect profile. This meta‐analysis shows that methyldopa reduces systolic/diastolic blood pressure by approximately 13/8 mmHg compared to placebo.

Hydralazine for treatment of high blood pressure

Hydralazine has been used for the treatment of high blood pressure since the 1950's. It is believed that hydralazine reduces blood pressure, however there are concerns due to the potential for this drug to cause adverse effects. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which hydralazine reduces blood pressure, the nature of hydralazine’s adverse effect profile, and to determine the clinical impact of its use for hypertension. Unfortunately, the search revealed no randomized controlled trials which compared hydralazine to placebo as monotherapy for primary hypertension, therefore we are unable to make firm conclusions regarding its effects on blood pressure, adverse effects, or clinical outcomes. Some of the adverse effects related to hydralazine and that have been reported in the literature include reflex tachycardia, hemolytic anemia, vasculitis, glomerulonephritis, and a lupus‐like syndrome.

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Terms to know

Blood Pressure
The force of blood exerted on the inside walls of blood vessels. Blood pressure is expressed as two numbers. For example, a blood pressure result of 120/80 is said as "120 over 80."
Blood Vessels
Tubes that carry blood to and from all parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are arteries, capillaries, and veins.
Heart
The hollow, muscular organ that maintains the circulation of the blood.
Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.
Kidney
One of a pair of organs in the abdomen. The kidneys remove waste and extra water from the blood (as urine) and help keep chemicals (such as sodium, potassium, and calcium) balanced in the body. The kidneys also make hormones that help control blood pressure and stimulate bone marrow to make red blood cells.
Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident)
A stroke occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain is blocked. Without oxygen, brain cells start to die after a few minutes. Sudden bleeding in the brain also can cause a stroke if it damages brain cells.

More about High Blood Pressure

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Also called: Hypertensive disorder, Hypertensive vascular degeneration, Hypertensive vascular disease, Systemic arterial hypertension, Hyperpiesis, Hyperpiesia, High blood pressure disorder, Hypertensive disease, HBP, HT, HTN

See Also: Portal Hypertension, Pulmonary Hypertension

Other terms to know: See all 6
Blood Pressure, Blood Vessels, Heart

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