Search the Health Library
Get the facts on diseases, conditions, tests and procedures.
I Want To...
Find a Doctor
Find a doctor at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center or Johns Hopkins Community Physicians.
I Want To...
Find Research Faculty
Enter the last name, specialty or keyword for your search below.
When blood travels through certain blood vessels called arteries, it presses against the vessel walls. This is known as blood pressure. Blood pressure goes up when the heart beats, because blood is pumped into the arteries; it goes down in between heart beats, when the heart is relaxed.
When doctors check your blood pressure they measure:
- How hard your heart is working to pump blood through the arteries—this is systolic pressure and is the number on top when your blood pressure is written as a fraction.
- The force of the arteries as they resist the blood flow—this is diastolic and is the number on the bottom of the fraction.
A healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80. Any blood pressure over 140/90 is considered high blood pressure or hypertension. The following table illustrates levels that indicate normal, prehypertensive and high blood pressure:
|Blood pressure categories||Systolic blood pressure (mmHg)||Diastolic blood pressure (mmHg)|
|Stage 1 hypertension||140-159||90-99|
|Stage 2 hypertension||>160||>100|
Source: The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Obesity and hypertension
The harder your heart has to work, the harder it may pump. If you are carrying extra weight, then your heart has to work harder to move you around. Hypertension increases your risk of other cardiovascular diseases like heart disease, strokes, vision changes, and kidney damage.
What is my baseline risk for developing hypertension?
Your genes and environment combine to form your baseline risk for developing hypertension. People who are at a healthy weight may also suffer from hypertension, especially if it runs in their family. However, if you are obese, that risk is increased and you are at increased risk for developing other cardiovascular disease.
How much weight do I need to lose to reduce my risk of hypertension?
Studies suggest that if you lose five percent of your body weight, you can reduce your risk for developing hypertension. If you already have been diagnosed with hypertension, then you can change your diet to affect your blood pressure and weight. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been proven to help patients lower their blood pressure. This diet is also helpful in lowering high cholesterol and helping patients with insulin resistance.
Will having hypertension make it harder for me to lose weight?
Some medications used to treat hypertension can result in weight gain. Our weight loss specialists will work to design a hypertension regimen that minimizes the use of medications that can lead to weight gain, while achieving good blood pressure control. We will also design a healthy eating and exercise plan that will help control your hypertension, and help you lose weight.
In addition, people with hypertension cannot take certain weight loss medications, like appetite suppressants, because they have a tendency to raise blood pressure. If your blood pressure is already too high, it may be dangerous to take these types of medications.
Our weight loss specialists will work with you to design a diet and exercise regimen that will work for both reducing your weight and managing your high blood pressure. Learn more about our weight loss services.