Definition: What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, referred to as “hypertonia” or “hypertension” in professional circles, is virtually regarded as a widespread disease in western societies. Estimates range from 20 to 30 million people affected in Germany alone. The signs of this are not perceived at all, or only insufficiently, bay many people, as blood pressure fluctuates with different intensity, depending on the stress situation. When referring to high blood pressure, this means blood pressure values that are elevated over a longer period of time – i.e. anything that is higher than 140/90 mmHg.

Digression: The “mmHg” unit stands for “millimetre of mercury column” The systolic blood pressure (1st Value, also “upper value”) expresses the pumping pressure, which exists with maximum capacity of the heart at rest. In contrast, with the diastolic blood pressure (2nd value, also “lower value”), the minimum capacity of the heart is shown, which exists exactly when the heart contracts after pumping. “Normal values”, which are regarded as being medically harmless, are within the range of 105 to 120 (systolic) and 65 to 80 (diastolic) mmHG, respectively.

What happens in the body?

The crucial question is: What is high blood pressure? With each heartbeat, blood is pumped into the blood vessels, pressure is generated, which pushes on the vessel wall from the inside. For a short time, for example, in phases of increased physical strain, this fluctuation is regarded as being normal and does not require any treatment, as a rule. However, if elevated blood pressure levels are measurable over a longer period of time, various organs are at risk of suffering damage. The most frequent secondary diseases, which are caused or intensified by high blood pressure, include diseases of the heart and coronary arteries, kidneys, eyes and brain.

The consequence of this is that highly debilitating diseases may manifest themselves, such as a heart weakness or cardiac arrhythmias, as well as visual impairment, the higher probability of a stroke or chronic kidney weakness, right up to kidney failure being among the significant risks of subsequent organ damage.

The most important high blood pressure values

Blood pressure fluctuations are due to numerous factors, such as physical or mental stress and substance-related effects  (caffeine, alcohol and other influencing factors, e.g. hot spices). From the digression above, it can be seen that normal blood pressure values are at around “120 to 80” (120/80 mmHg). If the values are below 105 to 65 mmHg, medical practitioners refer to “hypertonia”. However, this is not a disease, on the contrary, low blood pressure safeguards the coronary arteries and therefore reduces the risk of heart diseases.

In order to better evaluate and classify high blood pressure, various limit values are defined. Blood pressure us usually measured on the upper arm or wrist. We are showing the currently recognised limit values in the form of a table below.

Classificationsystolic (mmHg)diastolic (mmHg)
optimalless than 120less than 80
normal120 to 12980 to 84
high-normal130 to 13985 to 89
1st degree hypertonia (slight)140 to 15090 to 99
2nd degree hypertonia (medium-serious)160 to 179100 to 109
3rd degree hypertonia (serious)greater or equal to 180greater or equal to 110
isolated systolic hypertoniagreater or equal to 140less than 90

Note: There are no rigid boundaries between the respective degrees of seriousness, they can be described as flowing transitions. This way, it is better for checking monitoring and treatment.

Who gets high blood pressure?

The question cannot be answered with absolute accuracy. From the research, it is known that any people with diagnosed with high blood pressure in the immediate family, frequently suffer from high blood pressure themselves. Furthermore, high blood pressure affects more people with increasing age. This is due to the fact that over the years, the elasticity of the vessel walls is reduced. If hypertonia occurs, without other diseases being determinable, a primary/essential hypertonia is referred to. It is the most frequent form of high blood pressure and is associated with significant risk factors, e.g. an inherited higher disposition (predisposition).

High blood pressure – an insidious danger?

However, the factors that are directly related to one’s own lifestyle should not be underestimated. Factors that may cause or aggravate high blood pressure are:

  • Overweight (body mass index greater than 25)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Sleep apnoea syndrome
  • High alcohol consumption
  • High quantities of table salt

Secondary hypertonia is referred to, if the elevated blood pressure is regarded as a consequence of a prior disease. Around every sixth or seventh high blood pressure patient can be classified in these categories. Hormonal disorders, such as during pregnancy, thyroid malfunctions, adrenal cortex diseases and narrowing arteries frequently lead to secondary hypertonia. However, a relationship is also possible with the consumption of specific medications, particularly with cortisone and the “pill”.

Therefore, as it is usually not perceived as being “threatening”, high blood pressure can have a strong negative impact on life. However, when it is recognised at an early stage and diagnosed with respect to its causes, high blood pressure can be treated with various means and methods.

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