High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Our physicians provide lifesaving care, treatment and research for this condition

Hypertension (high blood pressure)—a common, treatable and often chronic condition—occurs when your blood flows too forcefully against the walls of your blood vessels. 

If left untreated, it damages your blood vessels and heart, and can lead to complications such as heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Indiana University Health Heart & Vascular Care physicians provide lifesaving care, treatment and research for hypertension.

You have normal blood pressure when it is 120/80 (diastolic/systolic). Blood pressure of 140/90 or higher, is considered high. You may have high blood pressure for years and not know it, putting you at risk. In fact, hypertension is the number one risk factor for stroke. Getting regular blood pressure checks, especially as you get older can help prevent problems. Even without symptoms, hypertension damages your heart and blood vessels.

Causes & Risks

Your vessels become narrowed from fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) which can cause hypertension. A strong association exists between hypertension and coronary artery disease (CAD), which occurs when a fatty substance called plaque builds up in the arteries around the heart, causing them to narrow.

Certain factors put you at higher risk of hypertension including:

  • Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Family history 
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Kidney damage

Renovascular Hypertension

In some cases, hypertension results from narrowing or blockage of arteries leading to the kidneys, referred to as renovascular hypertension. Your kidneys react to the reduced blood flow by producing hormones that cause the body to hold more water and sodium. Hypertension can also cause kidney problems. 

By controlling your blood pressure you can help avoid kidney damage and kidney (renal) failure. The relationship also works in the other direction—maintaining healthy kidneys can help you avoid hypertension.

Overview

You have normal blood pressure when it is 120/80 (diastolic/systolic). Blood pressure of 140/90 or higher, is considered high. You may have high blood pressure for years and not know it, putting you at risk. In fact, hypertension is the number one risk factor for stroke. Getting regular blood pressure checks, especially as you get older can help prevent problems. Even without symptoms, hypertension damages your heart and blood vessels.

Causes & Risks

Your vessels become narrowed from fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) which can cause hypertension. A strong association exists between hypertension and coronary artery disease (CAD), which occurs when a fatty substance called plaque builds up in the arteries around the heart, causing them to narrow.

Certain factors put you at higher risk of hypertension including:

  • Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Family history 
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Kidney damage

Renovascular Hypertension

In some cases, hypertension results from narrowing or blockage of arteries leading to the kidneys, referred to as renovascular hypertension. Your kidneys react to the reduced blood flow by producing hormones that cause the body to hold more water and sodium. Hypertension can also cause kidney problems. 

By controlling your blood pressure you can help avoid kidney damage and kidney (renal) failure. The relationship also works in the other direction—maintaining healthy kidneys can help you avoid hypertension.

IU Health physicians have a long history of research and cutting-edge treatments for hypertension and related health conditions. The Indiana University School of Medicine Hypertension Research Center, established and funded by the National Institutes of Health in 1971—works to create a deeper understanding of hypertension and better care for patients.

Your physicians will provide treatment for your hypertension based on your individual needs. Treatments may include:

  • Angioplasty. When needed, our experts perform angioplasty to unblock clogged arteries.
  • Medicine. Different types of medicines can treat hypertension including:
    • Diuretics
    • Beta blockers 
    • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
    • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) 
  • Nutrition. At IU Health, our registered dietitians and specialty nutritionists work with you to plan meals and appropriate calorie intake based on your specific needs, such as diets that are low-sodium or low carbohydrate and high protein.
  • Exercise. Staying physically active is a key part of reducing your blood pressure. At IU Health, you can work with certified fitness trainers, physiologists and physical therapists to develop an exercise plan that is right for you.
  • Non-surgical weight loss. A medically supervised weight loss program gives the extra support you may need for long-term weight loss. A custom plan is created for you and includes nutrition, exercise and behavioral counseling, as well as meal replacements. Losing weight reduces your hypertension. 
  • Bariatric surgery. If you are morbidly obese, one of several bariatric surgeries may help you lose weight and reduce your hypertension including:
  • Smoking cessation. We are ready to help you kick the tobacco habit. Smoking causes acute increases in blood pressure and heart rate and exacerbates hypertension. If you stop smoking you will reduce your high blood pressure.

Treatments

IU Health physicians have a long history of research and cutting-edge treatments for hypertension and related health conditions. The Indiana University School of Medicine Hypertension Research Center, established and funded by the National Institutes of Health in 1971—works to create a deeper understanding of hypertension and better care for patients.

Your physicians will provide treatment for your hypertension based on your individual needs. Treatments may include:

  • Angioplasty. When needed, our experts perform angioplasty to unblock clogged arteries.
  • Medicine. Different types of medicines can treat hypertension including:
    • Diuretics
    • Beta blockers 
    • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
    • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) 
  • Nutrition. At IU Health, our registered dietitians and specialty nutritionists work with you to plan meals and appropriate calorie intake based on your specific needs, such as diets that are low-sodium or low carbohydrate and high protein.
  • Exercise. Staying physically active is a key part of reducing your blood pressure. At IU Health, you can work with certified fitness trainers, physiologists and physical therapists to develop an exercise plan that is right for you.
  • Non-surgical weight loss. A medically supervised weight loss program gives the extra support you may need for long-term weight loss. A custom plan is created for you and includes nutrition, exercise and behavioral counseling, as well as meal replacements. Losing weight reduces your hypertension. 
  • Bariatric surgery. If you are morbidly obese, one of several bariatric surgeries may help you lose weight and reduce your hypertension including:
  • Smoking cessation. We are ready to help you kick the tobacco habit. Smoking causes acute increases in blood pressure and heart rate and exacerbates hypertension. If you stop smoking you will reduce your high blood pressure.

Patient Stories for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

American Heart Association

This volunteer organization aims to fight cardiovascular disease and stroke. It offers extensive information and resources about hypertension.

Resources

American Heart Association

This volunteer organization aims to fight cardiovascular disease and stroke. It offers extensive information and resources about hypertension.