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Blood Pressure (High)

Blood Pressure (High)
  • High Blood Pressure, also known as Hypertension, is a consistently high blood pressure reading greater than 140 / 90.
  • Blood Pressure varies depending on gender, age, fitness level, diet, illness, weight, smoking, medication and even the time of day.
  • High Blood Pressure often does not cause symptoms until organ damage occurs.

High Blood Pressure, also known as Hypertension, is a consistently high blood pressure reading greater than 140 / 901. Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries.

Blood Pressure is the force exerted by the blood on the surrounding arteries. The Blood Pressure is determined by the strength of the heart contraction, the resistance and elasticity of the arteries and the stickiness and volume of the blood.2

A Blood Pressure reading measures the two extremes of Blood Pressure, called systole and diastole. The systolic reading takes the Blood Pressure at its highest point, when the heart is contracting. The diastolic reading takes the Blood Pressure at its lowest point, when the heart is relaxed. The systolic reading is always the highest number and is shown on top, for example: 120 (systolic) / 80 (diastolic).

Blood Pressure varies depending on gender, age, fitness level, diet, illness, weight, smoking, medication and even the time of day. High Blood Pressure accelerates damage to the arteries and formation of plaques on the artery walls, leading to atherosclerosis. It is a major risk factor for many forms of heart disease and stroke. People with blood pressure of 140/90 or higher on at least two occasions are said to have high blood pressure. If the levels remain high, the doctor will probably begin treatment. Patients with blood pressure readings of 200/120 or higher need treatment immediately. People with diabetes are treated if their blood pressure rises above 135/80, as this population already has a high risk of heart disease.

Consistently high blood pressure forces the heart to work far beyond its capacity. Besides injuring blood vessels, it can damage the brain, eyes, and kidneys. Even so, many people with high blood pressure do not realise they have the condition. Despite the tendency of Hypertension to cause serious damage it rarely causes symptoms and this is why Hypertension is often called "the silent killer". Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to vision problems, as well as to heart attack, stroke, and other potentially fatal conditions, including kidney failure.

A recent scientific report identified people with blood pressure slightly higher than 120/80 as a category at high risk for Hypertension. This condition is called prehypertension and affects millions of men and women worldwide. A person diagnosed with prehypertension would not normally be advised to take medication unless another health issue exists. The person would be encouraged to begin lifestyle modifications to prevent stroke and heart disease. Lifestyle modifications include losing excess weight, exercising, limiting alcohol, following a heart-healthy, low-salt diet and quitting smoking.

The same report stated that for people over 50 years of age, systolic blood pressure is more important than diastolic blood pressure as a cardiovascular risk factor. The risk of heart disease and stroke begins to increase at a blood pressure of 115/75 which has prompted health experts to lower the acceptable normal range to promote more aggressive and earlier treatment of High Blood Pressure3.

High Blood Pressure can be classified into either primary or secondary Hypertension.
Primary Hypertension has no identifiable cause. About 90-95% of all Hypertension is Primary Hypertension4. Primary Hypertension is thought to relate to a combination of lifestyle, environmental, dietary, hereditary and emotional factors5.

Secondary Hypertension has an identifiable cause such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, medication toxicity and various other conditions. 6 Treatment of secondary Hypertension depends on the underlying condition.


Systolic: less than 120
Diastolic: less than 80

Systolic: 120 - 139
Diastolic: 80 - 89

Hypertension Grade 1 (mild)
Systolic: 140 - 159
Diastolic: 90 - 99

Hypertension Grade 2 (moderate)
Systolic: 160 - 179
Diastolic: 100 - 109

Hypertension Grade 3 (severe)
Systolic: more than or equal to 180
Diastolic: more than or equal to 110

Isolated Systolic Hypertension
Systolic: more than or equal to 140
Diastolic: less than 90.

Possible Causes

Primary Hypertension does not have one single identifiable cause. The following conditions are often associated with High Blood Pressure: 8<R>Cavalcante JW et al. Influence of caffeine on blood pressure and platelet aggregation. Arq Bras Cardiol 2000 Aug;75(2):97-1059.

  • Atherosclerosis - Kidney disease
  • Obesity - Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Excessive intake of sodium (salt), alcohol or caffeine
  • Oral contraceptive pill, especially in women over 35 years who smoke.
  • Stress.
  • Lack of exercise.  

Signs & Symptoms

High Blood Pressure often does not cause symptoms until organ damage occurs. For this reason it is important to have your blood pressure monitored regularly by a health professional. Signs of sudden, severe High Blood Pressure can include headache, dizziness, nervousness, nosebleeds, flushed face and sleeplessness10.

  • Management
    • Lifestyle changes are a critical part of managing High Blood Pressure. These measures include weight reduction, a healthy diet low in salt and high in fresh fruits, vegetables and calcium, reducing alcohol consumption, regular moderate physical activity, smoking cessation and stress management11.
    • Drug treatment in some cases.
    • Regular monitoring of blood pressure.12


    Diet Hints

    See the Hypertension Diet on the HealthPoint.


    Nutritional supplements may only be beneficial if dietary intake is inadequate. Consult your Doctor before commencing any supplements, as some may interact with prescribed medications.

    • Some studies have shown Coenzyme Q10 to be effective in improving heart function13 and reducing high blood pressure14.
    • Fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce blood pressure.15 16 17
    • Vitamin C has been shown in clinical trials to reduce elevated systolic blood pressure18. There is no evidence, however, to show that Vitamin C has any effect on elevated diastolic blood pressure. The antioxidant properties of Vitamin C help to enhance the synthesis of or prevent the breakdown of nitric oxide. This small molecule causes constricted blood vessels to relax thus helping to lower elevated blood pressure19.
    • Garlic has been shown in clinical trials to reduce elevated blood pressure. The mechanisms of action are thought to be through the relaxtion of smooth muscle and the dilation of contricted blood vessels. It is important to note that garlic may increase the effects of warfarin and some oral diabetic agents 20.
  • Pharmacist's Advice

    Ask your Pharmacist for advice:

    1. Consider a blood pressure monitor for home use.
    2. Anti-smoking products can help reduce cravings when quitting. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
    3. Some medications may interact with Hypertension drugs. Check with your Pharmacist for any possible drug interactions. Corticosteroids, NSAIDs and certain cough and cold preparations are included in this group21.
    4. Exercise regularly. Ask your Pharmacist to recommend home exercise equipment.
    5. Stress Management can help prevent Hypertension. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
    6. If the diet is inadequate, consider some supplements. See the Vitamins/Minerals/Herbs section of this topic for more information.
  • Notes

    Organisations & Support Groups

    Heart Foundation of Australia -


    1. Beers M et al (eds). The Merck Manual of diagnosis and therapy (17th ed). New Jersey: Merck Research laboratories; 1999.
    2. Dirckx J (ed). Stedman's Conciuse Medical and Allied Health Dictionary (3rd ed). USA: Williams & Williams; 1997.
    3. Classification of Blood Pressure. 7th Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. US Dept of Health and Human Services. 2003.
    4. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology; Tortora GJ, et al. Harper Collins; 1993; page 317.
    5. Balch J, et al. (1997). Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 2nd Ed. New York. Avery Publishing Group.
    6. Beers M et al (eds). The Merck Manual of diagnosis and therapy (17th ed). New Jersey: Merck Research Laboratories; 1999.
    7. Hypertension Management Guide for Doctors 2004. Heart Foundation. Australia. 2004.
    8. Beers M et al (eds). The Merck Manual of diagnosis and therapy (17th ed). New Jersey: Merck Research laboratories; 1999
    9. Dickey RA et al. Lifestyle modifications in the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Endocr Pract 2001 Sep-Oct;7(5):392-9
    10. Petersdorf RG. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. Australia: McGraw-Hill, 1983. p.1028.
    11. Gregoire J. Update on the Management of Hypertension: Initial Evaluation and Lifestyle Interventions for Patients With Hypertension. Cardiovasc Rev Rep 25 (3): 124-125. 2004.
    12. National Preventive and Community Medicine Committee of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Guidelines for preventive activities in general practise. 5th ed. Journal of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. 2002 May (Special Issue).
    13. Langsjoen H et al. Usefulness of coenzyme Q10 in clinical cardiology: a long-term study. Mol Aspects Med 1994;15 Suppl:s165-75.
    14. Langsjoen PH et al. Isolated diastolic dysfunction of the myocardium and its response to CoQ10 treatment. Clin Investig 1993;71 (8 Suppl):S140-4.
    15. Yosefy C et al. The effect of fish oil on hypertension, plasma lipids and hemostasis in hypertensive, obese, dyslipidemic patients with and without diabetes mellitus. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1999 Aug;61 (2):83-7.
    16. Singer P et al. Fish oil increases the effect of propranolol in mild essential hypertension. Hypertension 1990 Dec;16(6):682-91.
    17. Toft I. Effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on glucose homeostatis and blood pressure in essential hypertension. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 1995 Dec 15;123(12):911-8.
    18. Khosh F, KhoshM. Natural approach to hypertension. Altn Med Rev. 2001:6:590-600.
    19. Dominiczak AF, Bohr DF. Nitric Oxide and Hypertension in 1995. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 1996 Mar;5(2):174-80.
    20. Wilburn AJ. The Natural Treatment of Hypertension. J Clin Hypertension 6 (5):242-248. 2004.
    21. Urrutia-Bazan LG, et al. Effects on arterial pressure of the use of anti-inflammatory non-steroidal agents (letter). Aten-Primaria.
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