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QUICK FACTS on hypertension & high blood pressure

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Blood pressure is measured as two numbers, written one over the other and recorded in millimetres of mercury – for example, 120/78 mm Hg. The top (higher) number is the systolic pressure – the pressure in the arteries as the heart is contracting – and the bottom (lower) number is the diastolic pressure – the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed between beats. High blood pressure is defined as a repeatedly elevated systolic pressure of 140 or higher OR a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher.

  • Globally, nearly one billion people have high blood pressure (hypertension); of these, two-thirds are in developing countries.1
  • Hypertension is one of the most important causes of premature death worldwide and the problem is growing; in 2025, an estimated 1.56 billion adults will be living with hypertension.1
  • Hypertension is the leading cause of CVD worldwide.2
  • People with hypertension are more likely to develop complications of diabetes.3
  • High blood pressure is called the “silent killer" because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not realize they have it; that is why it's important to get blood pressure checked regularly.

1 WHO Regional Office for South East Asia. Hypertension fact sheet. Available at: Accessed 21 March, 2012.
Global Atlas on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Control. Mendis S, Puska P, Norrving B editors. World Health Organization (in collaboration with the World Heart Federation and World Stroke Organization), Geneva 2011.
3 Sowers JR, Epstein M, Frohlich ED. Diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Hypertension. 2001;37:1053–1059. 


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