Facts About Hypertension

Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke.


What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the measurement of pressure in your arteries (the vessels that carry blood away from your heart and toward your brain, muscles and organs). Your heart is your blood pump. When it contracts it sends a surge of blood through your arteries and the pressure increases. This is called the systolic pressure.

When your heart relaxes between beats, the pressure in your arteries decrease. This is called the diastolic pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or less.

What are are types of high blood pressure?

Most of us have labile hypertension. This is the blood pressure that goes up when we are excited or stressed; sometimes it goes up just by going to the doctor or dentist. This is called “White Coat Hypertension.” This type of high blood pressure is not thought to be dangerous unless it is very high or does not return to normal in a short period of time.

The blood pressure that remains elevated at rest is called essential hypertension. It is this type of hypertension that is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Most cases (95%) of essential hypertension are idiopathic (meaning that we do not know the cause). A few cases (5%) have a definite cause and this is called secondary hypertension.

According to recent estimates, about one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but, because there are no symptoms, nearly one-third of these people don’t know they have it. In fact, many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. This is why high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer.” The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked. Middle-aged Americans have a ninety percent chance of developing high blood pressure some time during their lives.

What is "normal" blood pressure?

There are several categories of blood pressure, including the following:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80
  • Prehypertension: 120-139/80-89
  • Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140-159/90-99
  • Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above/100 and above

People whose blood pressure is consistently above the normal range should consult their doctor about methods for lowering it.

Who is more likely to develop hypertension?

  • People with Family Members who have High Blood Pressure
  • People who Smoke
  • Women who Take Birth Control Pills
  • People over the Age of 35
  • People who are Overweight or Obese
  • Women who are Pregnant
  • People who are not Active
  • African-Americans
  • People who Drink Alcohol Excessively
  • People who Eat too Many Fatty Foods or Foods with too Much Salt

Please call the OTC Health and Wellness Clinic (417-866-3133) to make a brief appointment to have your blood pressure checked. It will only take a few minutes and may save your life.

Jim Blaine, MD, Medical Director
OTC Health & Wellness Clinic