What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. It happens when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is too high. High blood pressure can lead to other serious problems such as heart attack and stroke.

Watch video: Is there a difference between hypertension and high blood pressure?

Blood pressure and the circulatory system

Your tissues and organs need the blood your circulatory system carries through the body. Your heartbeat makes this happen by pushing blood through the blood vessels. These vessels include arteries, veins and capillaries.

Blood pressure is the result of two forces. The first force (systolic pressure) happens as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries. The second force (diastolic pressure) is created as the heart rests between heart beats. These two forces are each represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading.

The damage starts in your arteries and heart.

See how HBP damages heart

See how high blood pressure can damage your arteries and heart.

When blood pressure is high for too long, it can damage the walls of blood vessels, causing them to develop tiny tears. To fix these damaged areas, the body sends special cells that stick to the site. Over time, substances such as cholesterol and fats may also build up at these damaged spots, forming plaque.

As plaque slowly builds, a process called atherosclerosisit can make the inside of the arteries narrower. This narrowing can block the flow of blood, further increasing blood pressure. 

Health threats diagram

High blood pressure is a 'silent killer.'

High blood pressure could be causing damage that can threaten your health. It is sometimes called a “silent killer” because it usually does not have any symptoms you can see. The best thing is to make changes that can help manage your blood pressure.

Get the high blood pressure fact sheet: English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)

Video: 130 Is Too High For Blood Pressure

Let's Talk About Blood Pressure

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