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Living with hypertension
You can find all the necessary information to understand hypertension, its global impact, its causes and consequences, and how to get hypertension under control.

What is hypertension?

First, let us consider blood pressure

The force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) while it is pumped by the heart creates blood pressure. With more pressure, the heart has to pump harder, causing more damage to many parts of the body, particularly the brain, heart and kidneys.1
Two main factors contribute to the variations of blood pressure:
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The amount of blood pumped by the heart.
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The amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries.
The more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries are, the higher the blood pressure is.2

Definition of hypertension

what is hypertension illustration
Blood pressure can be low, normal, or high, and there is range that is considered a healthy blood pressure; but over time and with age, blood pressure rises. Why? The walls of large arteries become more rigid and the small blood vessels become narrower. Because of these changes, the heart has to generate a greater force to keep blood flowing around the body. This leads to an increase in blood pressure.3 Hypertension is defined as blood pressure that is consistently higher than 140/90 mm Hg4; it is common not to notice any high blood pressure symptoms.
SYSTOLIC blood pressure (mm Hg):
The highest level of blood pressure, when blood is pumped from the heart to the entire body.
DIASTOLIC blood pressure (mm Hg):
The lowest level of blood pressure, when your heart is relaxed before it contracts again.
systolic and diastolic blood pressure


  • Systolic <120
  • Diastolic <80


  • Systolic <120-129
  • Diastolic 80-84

High normal:

  • Systolic 130-139
  • Diastolic 85-89

Let us check how to interpret your blood pressure values.4

Sys <120 & Dia <80
Sys 120-129 &/or Dia 80-84
Sys 130-139 &/or Dia 85-89
Sys 140-159 &/or Dia 90-99
Sys 160-179 &/or Dia 100-109
Sys ≥180 &/or Dia ≥110
Sys ≥140 &/or Dia <90
“Good, keep going!”“Your blood pressure should be recorded at least annually, and you should be offered lifestyle advice. You may receive a medical treatment if your cardiovascular risk is very high because of an established cardiovascular disease, especially coronary artery disease."“In case of low-to moderate risk grade 1 hypertension, with no link to any organ damage, a medical treatment is recommended if a period of lifestyle intervention does not lower blood pressure to acceptable levels. In any other case, your blood pressure needs to be reduced with a medical treatment, and you should as well follow lifestyle advice.”“Medical treatment is recommended if a period of lifestyle intervention does not lower blood pressure to acceptable levels.”
*Isolated systolic hypertension is also graded on a scale from 1 to 3, depending on the systolic blood pressure value, with the same cut-off values as “standard” hypertension.
Dia: diastolic; Sys: systolic.

Hypertension: a worldwide problem5

1.3 billion

Around the world, hypertension affects about 1.3 billion people.5


Prevalence in men.5


Prevalence in women.5


Prevalence in patients over 60 years old.2

image showing worldwide hypertension problem on map

What are the causes of hypertension?

There are 2 types of hypertension: primary (or essential hypertension) and secondary hypertension. Both are treated by high blood pressure medication and other measures.

Primary hypertension

In primary hypertension, the causes of high blood pressure are not obvious. There are a number of factors that increase the risk of developing high blood pressure:
Lack of physical activity.
Excessive weight.
Excessive alcohol intake.
Excessive salt intake or too little potassium.
Chronic heavy smoking.
Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, and sharing a common environment and other potential factors may also increase the risk.2
Black people develop hypertension more often than other ethnicities, and at a younger age.

Secondary hypertension

In secondary hypertension, the reason for high blood pressure is identifiable (for example, an abnormal production of hormones from the adrenal glands). Only a small number of patients suffer from this kind of hypertension. Once the cause is found and treated correctly, blood pressure should return to normal.
With whom should I discuss this if I want to find out more?
Your general practitioner is the right person to ask about blood pressure.