What is hypertension?

Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) occurs when your blood pressure readings are consistently 140 over 90, or higher, over a number of weeks – or when one of these numbers is consistently higher.

If left untreated, high blood pressure increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke. It can also cause heart and kidney disease, or lead to some forms of dementia.

High blood pressure symptoms

More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure – but many don’t realise it (source: NHS, accessed Feb 2019). This is because high blood pressure does not have any obvious symptoms.

It is therefore important to get your blood pressure checked at least every 5 years.

What causes high blood pressure?

There are a number of risk factors for high blood pressure.

Diet and lifestyle

Hypertension is closely linked to diet and lifestyle. Being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and not doing enough exercise can all contribute towards a high blood pressure. Likewise, eating foods that are high in salt and not eating enough fruit and vegetables can also affect blood pressure.


The older you get, the greater the cumulative effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Ethnic origin

Individuals from African-Caribbean and South Asia have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure than others.

Family history

You are at greater risk if other members of your family have, or have had, high blood pressure.

Certain medical conditions

High blood pressure is often a symptom of other medical conditions, such as kidney problems.

Diagnosing hypertension

To diagnose hypertension (high blood pressure), you will need to have your blood pressure checked. This can be done by your GP, nurse or other health professional, or you can do this at home using a home kit.

Hypertension treatment

Hypertension (high blood pressure) can be treated via a change in diet and lifestyle or medication – or a combination of both.

Medication to treat hypertension

Medications include:

  • angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • calcium channel blockers
  • diuretics
  • beta-blockers
  • alpha-blockers

Procedure to treat hypertension

In cases where drugs have become ineffective at lowering blood pressure, a transcatheter procedure called renal denervation for hypertension may be used to quieten the nerves in the kidney that can cause high blood pressure.

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