Many people have high blood pressure (also called hypertension) without knowing it. That's why it's sometimes called "the silent killer." If you don't detect and treat high blood pressure, it greatly it increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.


What is blood pressure? Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the walls of the arteries, like the pressure of water in a garden hose.

What do the numbers mean? Blood pressure is expressed as 2 numbers: systolic over diastolic (for example, 120 over 80 or 120/80). Systolic measures the maximum pressure in your arteries, which occurs when you heart contracts. Diastolic measures the minimum pressure in your arteries, which occurs when you heart relaxes.

Here's how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes the categories of blood pressure:

Less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic

120 to 139 systolic OR 80 to 89 diastolic May require aggressive lifestyle changes

140 systolic or higher OR 90 diastolic or higher May require one or more medications to achieve goal blood pressure


Your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. Possible treatment options for high blood pressure include:


Blood pressure medications, also called antihypertensives, are commonly used to treat high blood pressure by relaxing and widening blood vessels.

Patient Education Materials

Learn more about high blood pressure from Intermountain's Patient Education Library: