Chronic Hypertension

What is chronic hypertension?

Chronic hypertension is a long-term condition in which your blood pressure (BP) is higher than normal. Your BP is the force of your blood moving against the walls of your arteries. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Prehypertension is BP between 120/80 and 139/89. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.

What increases my risk for chronic hypertension?

  • For men, being older than 55 years of age, and for women, being older than 65 years of age

  • Family history of hypertension or heart disease

  • Obesity or lack of exercise

  • Diet high in sodium

  • Stress

  • Use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs

  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney disease, thyroid disease, or adrenal gland disorder

  • Medicines, such as steroids or birth control pills

What are the signs and symptoms of chronic hypertension?

You may have no signs or symptoms, or you may have any of the following:

  • Headache

  • Blurred vision

  • Chest pain

  • Dizziness or weakness

  • Trouble breathing

  • Nosebleeds

How is chronic hypertension diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and the medicines you take. He will also ask if you have a family history of high blood pressure and about any health conditions you have. He will also check your blood pressure and weight and examine your heart, lungs, and eyes. You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests may help caregivers find the cause of your hypertension. Blood tests can also help find other health problems caused by hypertension.

  • Urine tests will be done to check your kidneys.

  • An EKG records the electrical activity of your heart. It is used to check your heart rhythm or other problems caused by hypertension.

How is chronic hypertension treated?

  • Blood pressure medicine is given to lower your blood pressure. A controlled blood pressure helps protect your organs, such as your heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys. You may need more than 1 type of blood pressure medicine. Take your blood pressure medicine exactly as directed.

  • Diuretics help decrease extra fluid that collects in your body. This will help lower your BP. You may urinate more often while you take this medicine.

What are the risks of chronic hypertension?

You may lose vision in one or both eyes. You may develop heart and blood vessel disease. This increases your risk of a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or kidney disease. This can be life-threatening.

How can I manage chronic hypertension?

  • Take your BP at home. Sit and rest for 5 minutes before you take your BP. Extend your arm and support it on a flat surface. Your arm should be at the same level as your heart. Follow the directions that came with your BP monitor. If possible, take at least 2 BP readings each time. Take your BP at least twice a day at the same times each day, such as morning and evening. Keep a log of your BP readings and bring it to your follow-up visits. Ask your caregiver what your blood pressure should be.



  • Eat less sodium. Foods that are high in sodium are table salt and salty foods, such as canned foods, potato chips, and cold cuts. Your caregiver may suggest that you follow the DASH Eating Plan. The plan is low in sodium, unhealthy fats, and total fat. It is high in potassium, calcium, and fiber. You get these nutrients by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Ask your caregiver or dietitian what meal plan you should follow.

  • Exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, on most days of the week. This will help decrease your blood pressure. Ask your caregiver about the best exercise plan for you.

  • Decrease stress. This may help lower your BP. Learn ways to relax, such as deep breathing or listening to music.

  • Limit alcohol. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information about how to stop smoking if you need help.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You feel faint, dizzy, confused, or drowsy.

  • You have been taking your BP medicine and your BP is still higher than your caregiver says it should be.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have a severe headache or vision loss.

  • You have weakness in an arm or leg.

  • You become confused or have difficulty speaking.

  • You have discomfort in your chest that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded or have trouble breathing.

  • You have pain or discomfort in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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