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Createdon: 16 Mar 2023
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Published Mar 16, 2023
Updated Apr 03, 2023

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High Blood Pressure (hypertension)

Etymology and Pronunciation

hypertension (high-per-TEN-shun)
hyper - Greek for "above"
tension - English word for the state of being stretched tight.
tensio - Latin for "a stretching"


The concept of high blood pressure, or hypertension, has been recognized since ancient times, with records dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. However, it was not until the 19th century that accurate measurements of blood pressure were made possible, leading to the discovery and history of hypertension as a medical condition.

In 1733, the English physician Stephen Hales was the first to measure blood pressure using a glass tube and a horse's artery. However, his technique was not practical for use in humans, and it was not until the mid-19th century that advances in technology allowed for more accurate measurements.

In 1847, the French physiologist Jean-LĂ©onard-Marie Poiseuille developed a method for measuring blood pressure by inserting a fine tube into an artery. This technique, known as direct arterial measurement, was refined over the next several decades and is still used today in certain medical procedures.

In 1896, the Italian physician Scipione Riva-Rocci invented the first practical instrument for measuring blood pressure, called the sphygmomanometer. This device consisted of an inflatable cuff that was wrapped around the upper arm and connected to a mercury column, allowing for the measurement of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

In the early 20th century, researchers began to investigate the link between high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. In 1904, the Russian physician Nikolai Sergeevich Korotkov discovered the technique for listening to the sounds of blood flowing through the brachial artery, known as Korotkoff sounds, which are still used today to measure blood pressure non-invasively.

Throughout the 20th century, research on hypertension continued to expand, leading to the discovery of various risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, and stress, as well as the development of medications to control blood pressure. Today, hypertension is recognized as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is closely monitored and treated by healthcare professionals.

Modern Understanding

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common medical condition that affects millions of people around the world. It occurs when the force of blood against the walls of the arteries is consistently too high, which can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure is often referred to as the "silent killer" because it usually has no symptoms, but can increase the risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. In this article, we will explore the various causes of high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as it flows through the body. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The systolic pressure is the higher number and represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, while the diastolic pressure is the lower number and represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest. Blood pressure is an important indicator of overall health, and high blood pressure (hypertension) can increase the risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure:

High blood pressure often has no symptoms, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the "silent killer". The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. In rare cases, extremely high blood pressure can cause symptoms such as headache, blurred vision, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. However, these symptoms are not specific to high blood pressure and can be caused by other conditions as well.

Diagnosis of High Blood Pressure:

High blood pressure is diagnosed using a blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope. The cuff is placed around the upper arm and inflated, then slowly released while the healthcare provider listens to the pulse in the artery using the stethoscope. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and a normal reading is generally considered to be 120/80 mmHg or lower. If the reading is consistently above this level, a diagnosis of high blood pressure may be made.


High blood pressure can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, age, and lifestyle choices. Some of the most common causes of high blood pressure include:

- Genetics: High blood pressure can run in families, and certain genes may make a person more susceptible to developing hypertension. If one or both parents have high blood pressure, a person may be more likely to develop the condition.
- Age: Blood vessels can become less flexible and more prone to damage as a person ages, which can lead to high blood pressure. As a person gets older, the risk of developing high blood pressure increases.
- Lifestyle choices: Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as a diet high in sodium, lack of exercise, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to high blood pressure. A diet high in processed foods and sodium can increase blood pressure, while regular exercise can help lower blood pressure.
- Underlying health conditions: Certain health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Diabetes can damage blood vessels and make them less flexible, while kidney disease can interfere with the body's ability to regulate blood pressure.
- Medications: Certain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), birth control pills, and some antidepressants can increase blood pressure in some people. If you are taking medications and notice a rise in your blood pressure, talk to your healthcare provider.
- Stress: Chronic stress can increase the risk of high blood pressure. When a person is under stress, their body produces hormones that can narrow blood vessels and cause blood pressure to rise.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Excess weight puts additional strain on the heart and blood vessels, which can cause blood pressure to rise.


The goal of treating high blood pressure is to lower blood pressure to a healthy range and reduce the risk of serious health complications. Treatment options may include:

- Lifestyle changes: Making healthy lifestyle choices such as a low-sodium diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking can help lower blood pressure.
- Medications: Several different types of medications can be used to treat high blood pressure, including diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and beta-blockers.
- Blood pressure monitoring: Regular monitoring of blood pressure can help ensure that blood pressure stays within a healthy range and that treatment is effective.
- Management of underlying health conditions: If high blood pressure is caused by an underlying health condition such as diabetes or kidney disease, managing the condition can help improve blood pressure control.

Prevention of High Blood Pressure:

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious health condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other health complications. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure. Here are some strategies that may help:

- Reduce sodium intake: Consuming too much salt can increase blood pressure. To reduce your sodium intake, try to limit processed foods, canned goods, and fast food. Instead, cook meals at home using fresh ingredients and flavorings like herbs, spices, and lemon juice.
- Limit alcohol intake: Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. To reduce your risk, aim to limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can damage the blood vessels and increase blood pressure. If you smoke, consider quitting to reduce your risk of developing hypertension.
- Manage stress: Stress can cause temporary spikes in blood pressure. To manage stress, try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. You can also engage in activities that help you relax, such as listening to music, taking a bath, or spending time with loved ones.
- Monitor your blood pressure: Regular blood pressure checks are important for early detection and prevention of hypertension. Aim to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year, or more often if your healthcare provider recommends it.
- Take medications as prescribed: If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, it is important to take medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider. These medications can help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of health complications.

In addition to these strategies, it is important to work with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized prevention plan based on your individual risk factors and health history. By taking steps to prevent high blood pressure, you can protect your health and reduce your risk of serious health complications.