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What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
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What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common health condition in which the force of the blood against the walls of the arteries in the body (blood vessels) is persistently higher than it should be, which may cause health problems over time, such as heart disease.


Blood pressure readings are given in "millimeters of mercury" (mm Hg)- there are two numbers.


  • the top number (systolic pressure)- this is the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
  • the bottom number (diastolic pressure)- this is the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.


Both of these numbers are important. Blood pressure is normal if it's at or below 120/80 mm Hg. The diagnosis of is usually made over a few readings, and may need to be checked on a few different days. Some people get high blood pressure when they are at the doctor's office, but have normal readings at home- this may be "white coat hypertension". If there is any question about this, you may be recommended to have a 24 hour blood pressure monitor or to do some readings on a home BP monitor, to clarify the situation. 


  • Stage 1 hypertension is systolic pressure from 130 to 139 mm Hg or diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension. is systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.
  • A Hypertensive crisis is when blood pressure measures higher than 180/120 mm Hg- it is an emergency situation that requires urgent medical attention as there is a risk of stroke and other serious complications. If your blood pressure is in this range when you measure it at home, wait a few minutes and check it again. If it is still this high, you should contact a doctor immediately. If you have a very high blood pressure reading and also have chest pain, disturbance of your vision, breathing difficulties, numbness or weakness in your face or limbs, severe headache or any other signs and symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. 

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

There are usually no symptoms! Many people have high blood pressure for years without realising it. Some people may experience headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but this tends to occur only when blood pressure levels are severely raised. Even if you have no symptoms, untreated high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health issues over time, such as heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected and managed with lifestyle changes (such as increasing exercise, reducing salt and alcohol intake etc) and medication. 


To request a prescription for your usual blood pressure medication, start HERE.

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