Hypertension is defined as a sustained increase in blood pressure. Historically, the level of blood pressure designating hypertension has been a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or more and/or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or more. However, the risk imparted with increasing blood pressure is continuous, such that the level of blood pressure must be considered within the context of the overall cardiovascular risk profile.

Keywords: blood pressure; cardiovascular disease; antihypertensive therapy; pulse pressure

Figure 1.

Frequency distribution of diastolic blood pressure of 158 906 persons aged 30–69 years in the Hypertension Detection and Follow‐Up Program. From Hypertension Detection and Follow‐Up Program Cooperative Group (1977) The Hypertension Detection and Follow‐Up Program: a progress report. Circulation Research40 (supplement 1): 106–109.

Figure 2.

Prevalence of blood pressure by age and race/ethnicity for men and women in the United States aged 18 years or older. From Burt VL, Whelton P, Rocella EJ et al. (1995) Prevalence of hypertension in the US adult population: results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1991. Hypertension25: 305–313. Estimate based on a sample size not meeting minimum requirements of the National Health and Nutrition Survey III design or relative SEM greater than 30%.

Figure 3.

Effects of talking on blood pressure measurement. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements were taken during office visits, before and after periods of silence, talking and quiet reading. From Le Pailleur C, Helft G, Landais P et al. (1998) The effects of talking, reading, and silence on the ‘white coat’ phenomenon in hypertensive patients. American Journal of Hypertension11: 203–207. Each bar represents the mean ± 2 SEM.



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Further Reading

Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (1997) The sixth report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Archives of Internal Medicine 157: 2413–2446.

Kannel WB, Gordon T and Schwartz MT (1971) Systolic versus diastolic blood pressure and the risk of coronary heart disease: The Framingham Study. American Journal of Cardiology 27: 335–346.

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Perloff D, Grim C, Flack J et al. (1993) Human blood pressure determination by sphygmomanometry. Circulation 88: 2460–2470.

Staessen JA and Wang JG (1999) Characteristics of published, ongoing, and planned outcome trials in hypertension. In: Oparil S and Weber MA (eds) Hypertension: Companion to Brenner and Rector's the Kidney, pp. 341–359. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders.

World Health Organization (1997) The World Health Report 1997: Conquering Suffering, Enriching Humanity. Geneva: WHO.

WHO‐ISH (1999) World Health Organization–International Society of Hypertension guidelines for the management of hypertension, 1997. Journal of Hypertension 17: 151–183.

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Alper, Arnold B, Calhoun, David A, and Oparil, Suzanne(Apr 2001) Hypertension. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0002303]