What does it mean to have high blood pressure or hypertension? What does it mean to have high blood pressure or hypertension?

Find out what the optimal blood pressure is and why controlling it is important for avoiding disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, high blood pressure occurs when the pressure in the blood vessels is greater than it should be. The American Heart Association explains that blood pressure is measured using two numbers: systolic pressure (the amount of pressure exerted by the heart, which is what pumps blood throughout the body) and diastolic pressure (the pressure exerted by blood pushing against the artery walls when your heart rests between beats).

According to the Association, when blood continuously exerts pressure against the walls of the arteries, veins and capillaries, it damages them. At the same time, blood vessels begin to narrow making it harder for the heart to function properly.

Keep in mind that if blood pressure is not kept under control, the constant lack of oxygen can cause kidney, heart and brain problems. “When a person has high blood pressure for a long period of time, they start to suffer from what is known as end-organ damage, which is when some parts of the body become obstructed,” the American Heart Association explains on its website.

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