What is Hypertension?

Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries, which carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day. But if it stays high for a long time, it can damage the heart and lead to health problems. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.

Risk Factors

A number of risk factors increase the chances of having hypertension.

  • Age– Hypertension is more common in people over the age of 60 years.
  • Ethnicity– Some ethnic groups, such as African Americans are prone to hypertension.
  • Weight– Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor.
  • Alcohol & tobacco use– consuming alcohol regularly and smoking tobacco can increase a persons blood pressure.
  • Preexisting conditions– Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and high cholesterol can lead to hypertension.

Lifestyle Changes

Hypertension can be managed through lifestyle & dietary changes.

  • Reduce the amount of salt- Average salt intake is between 9 grams and 12 grams; to help decrease the risk of hypertension, reducing intake to under 5 grams a day is recommended.
  • Moderating alcohol consumption-limiting alcohol consumption to two drinks/day for males and one drink/day for females can reduce the risk of hypertension.
  • More fruits and vegetables and less fats– avoiding saturated fats and total fat can reduce a persons risk for developing hypertension.
  • Exercise- Doctors recommend that people with hypertension or have significant risk factors for hypertension engage in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, dynamic, aerobic exercise. This can include: walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming on 5 to 7 days of the week.
  • Stress Reduction- Avoiding stress or developing strategies for managing stress can help with blood pressure control. Avoiding the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco to cope with stress will add to hypertensive problems. These should be avoided. Smoking can raise the blood pressure. Smoking cessation reduces the risk of hypertension, heart disease and other health issues.

Common Myths about Hypertension

High blood pressure myths vs facts

Myth: High blood pressure runs in my family. There is nothing I can do to prevent it.

Fact: High blood pressure can be hereditary. If your parents or family members have had high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop it, too.

Myth: I feel fine. I don’t have to worry about high blood pressure.

Fact: About 85 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure — and many of them don’t know it or don’t experience typical symptoms. High blood pressure is also a major risk factor for stroke. If uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to serious and severe health problems.

Myth: I read that wine is good for the heart, which means I can drink as much as I want.

Fact: If you drink alcohol, including red wine, do so in moderation. Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically. It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats.  If you drink, limit consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Generally, one drink equals a 12-ounce beer, a four-ounce glass of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, or one ounce of hard liquor (100 proof).

Myth: I have high blood pressure and my doctor checks it for me. This means I don’t need to check it at home.

Fact: Because blood pressure can fluctuate, monitoring your blood pressure at home can provide your healthcare provider with valuable information to determine whether you really have high blood pressure and, if you do, whether your treatment plan is working.

Myth: I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, but I have been maintaining lower readings, so I can stop taking my medication.

Fact: High blood pressure can be a lifelong disease. Follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations carefully, even if it means taking medication every day for the rest of your life.



Hales, C. M., Carroll, M. D., Simon, P. A., Kuo, T., & Ogden, C. L. (2017). Hypertension Prevalence, Awareness, Treatment, and Control Among Adults Aged ≥18 Years – Los Angeles County, 1999-2006 and 2007-2014. MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report

Give Your Hypertension Coding a Clean Bill of Health With 7 Tips. (2018). Cardiology Coding Alert, 21(1), 3-5.


Elmore, K. E. (2016). Hypertension: Facts and Forecasts. Med-Surg Matters, 25(3), 4-7.