Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a chronic condition that affects 1/3 of those over age 20 and 2/3 of those over age 60. Hypertension is a result of a higher than normal force of blood on artery walls. This extra force can be from thickening of artery walls, loss of elasticity of artery walls, or increase in blood volume.

Who Gets Hypertension?

Everyone is at risk for hypertension, but some are at a greater risk than others. As a person ages, the arterial walls become less elastic and the risk for hypertension increases. Older age, African American race, sodium intake, overweight, alcohol and tobacco usage, and family history all effect blood pressure.

Are There Different Types of Hypertension?

Primary: Essential or primary hypertension is the most common and develops over time. There is typically no identifiable cause, but the condition worsens over time.

Secondary: Secondary hypertension develops as a response to another condition and typically is more severe than primary hypertension.

How Is Hypertension Prevented?

Hypertension prevention comes through general healthy lifestyle practices. Exercising and not using alcohol or tobacco have been linked with a lower risk of hypertension. A diet that lowers the risk for hypertension is low in sodium (salt) and high in potassium and vitamin D.

An example of a hypertensive artery

An example of a hypertensive artery

What Are Some Signs & Symptoms?

Hypertension is commonly known as the “silent killer” because it often does not have any signs or symptoms until a serious incident like a heart attack or stroke occurs. Some signs may include headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds, but these do not usually occur until blood pressure is already dangerously high.

Screening: Most medical visits include a blood pressure check. People over the age of 40 are at an increased risk for hypertension and will have additional screenings. Some pharmacies offer free blood pressure screenings and home blood pressure cuffs are available to purchase from most stores. Consult with a doctor to determine which method is best for you.

How is Hypertension Managed?

People living with hypertension are often recommended to eat a healthy low sodium diet, maintain a healthy weight, and refrain from smoking. One common example of a hypertension diet is DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension). However, this is not always enough. Hypertension can be managed with a myriad of drugs. Doctors will select which medicine to prescribe based on the individual and his or her specific conditions.

Additional Resources

The best additional resource is to consult your primary care physician. For additional online reading, the Center for Disease Control has a resource list available from:


  1. “High Blood Pressure (hypertension).” Treatments and Drugs. Mayo Clinic, 16 June 2016. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.
  2. “Hypertension.” Heart Failure Online Hypertension Comments., 2013. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.
  3. “Other Resources Related to High Blood Pressure.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 07 July 2014. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

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