High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys and blood vessels. Over time, this condition can damage these organs and tissues. Blood pressure measurements are read as two numbers:

  • Systolic pressure: higher number, normal reading is 120 mmHg or less
  • Diastolic pressure: lower number, normal reading is 80 mmHg or less

High blood pressure is defined as systolic pressure greater than 140 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure greater than 90 mmHg. You're prehypertensive if your systolic blood pressure is between 120-139 mmHg or your diastolic pressure is between 80-89 mmHg.

Are You at Risk?

The following risk factors may increase your chances of high blood pressure:

  • Male gender
  • Postmenopausal female
  • African American ethnicity
  • Middle-aged and older
  • Overweight
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Use of oral contraceptives
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • High-fat, high-salt diet
  • Stress

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure usually doesn't cause symptoms. If your blood pressure reaches extreme levels, you may experience the following:

  • Headache
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

Your doctor measures your blood pressure with an arm cuff and a special device. Three visits with readings over 140/90 mmHG can result in a positive diagnosis.

Your doctor will make sure your high blood pressure is not caused by another condition or has caused additional problems. 

Tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Chest X-rays
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)

We offer the following treatment options for high blood pressure. 

Lifestyle Changes

If you want to manage high blood pressure, you should:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly,
  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat a low fat, low salt and high fiber diet.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Manage stress.


Your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to:


Call us at 434.243.1000.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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