Blood pressure monitor


What is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against your artery walls as it flows through your heart. It is determined by the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. Therefore, the narrower your arteries are and the more blood your heart pumps, the higher your blood pressure will be.

Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. If you have high blood pressure (or hypertension), it will eventually lead to more serious health problems, including heart disease.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

Unfortunately most people with hypertension (high blood pressure), even those with dangerously high levels, have no signs or symptoms. A few people may suffer from headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds. However these signs may not result until hypertension has reached a life-threatening stage.

Around 4 million Australians suffer from hypertension and of these, more than two thirds have uncontrolled or unmanaged high blood pressure.

Blood pressure with readings

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

Measuring blood pressure is very straightforward and can be done with your doctor, heart health specialist, or nurse. An inflatable cuff will be placed around your arm and a pressure measuring gauge will be started.

The reading has two numbers, for example 120/80. The first number (systolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second (diastolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries between beats.

The measurements fall into these general categories as seen in the Blood Pressure Chart below.

Normal Blood Pressure Below 120 Below 80
Prehypertension (Elevated) 120-129 Below 80 Prehypertension tends to get worse over time
Stage 1 hypertension (High) 130-139 80-89
Stage 2 hypertension (Severe) 140 or higher 90 or higher
Blood Pressure Crisis 180 or higher 120 or higher Call Doctor - Requires Urgent Attention!

Before being diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will take two to three readings as it can vary throughout the day. A ‘normal’ blood pressure reading will also consider your overall risk for heart disease, which is based on your medical history. For example, your doctor might aim to treat your blood pressure more aggressively if you have had a prior heart attack or have several risk factors for heart disease.

This is one of the checks that is done on our mobile Heart Health Check Tour, along with high cholesterol and blood sugar level checks.

What are the types of different hypertension (high blood pressure)?

There are two types of hypertension:

What are the causes of hypertension (high blood pressure)?

Each type of hypertension has different causes.

Primary (essential) high blood pressure usually develops gradually and in most cases, there is no known cause.

Secondary hypertension is caused by an underlying condition and generally appears suddenly, causing higher blood pressure than primary hypertension. Some conditions which may lead to secondary hypertension include:

How can hypertension (high blood pressure) be treated or prevented?

If your hypertension is hereditary, it is important to combine a healthy lifestyle with the appropriate medication recommended by your doctor, in order to keep it under control. Ultimately, leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce or prevent hypertension, including:

To learn more about treating hypertension, please visit our Reducing High Blood Pressure page.

However if lifestyle changes are not enough to manage hypertension, doctors may prescribe the following medications:

Additional medications also used to treat hypertension include:

Ask your doctor for a heart health check which looks at the key risk signs. Download our Heart Health Check Guide to take with you to your next doctor's appointment.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years