Hypertension Diagnosis

Hypertension or high blood pressure is often diagnosed by chance during a general health check up or when visiting the doctor about an unrelated condition. This is because the condition does not usually present with symptoms, at least not during the initial stages. Typically, symptoms may present in the case of a very high blood pressure that has reached a level of around 180/110 mm Hg or higher.

Measuring blood pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted against the walls of blood vessels as the heart pumps blood through them. An increased blood pressure means excess strain is placed on the artery walls and this can lead to complications such as a stroke, kidney damage or heart attack.

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer, which is available in the form of a traditional device with a mercury column or a modern digital version.

There are two numerical figures of blood pressure - the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is the higher number that indicates the pressure of the blood when the heart beats. The diastolic pressure is the lower number and indicates the pressure of the blood when the heart rests between two beats. A healthy blood pressure reading is around 120/80 mm Hg. A reading above 140/90 mm Hg is considered high.

The sphygmomanometer has an inflatable cuff that is wrapped around the upper arm and inflated with air. A dial shows when the desired pressure in the cuff is achieved. Once this pressure is higher than the pressure in the artery, the blood flow in the main artery of the upper arm is cut off, which is indicated by the absence of a pulse in the wrist. The air is then slowly released from the cuff using a valve and as the pressure in the cuff falls, the blood rushing through the artery can be heard using a stethoscope.

The dial or the calibrated mercury column shows the pressure when the sound is first heard, as the cuff is released. This is the systolic pressure. The pressure when the last sound is heard, as blood flow is uninterrupted, is the diastolic blood pressure. Digital automatic blood pressure monitors can bypass this process and provide a direct result. However, these are not always accurate.

People with a family history of blood pressure should have their blood pressure checked every two years. More frequent checks are needed in those with a family history of stroke or heart attack due to high blood pressure.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, July 17). Hypertension Diagnosis. News-Medical. Retrieved on February 07, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hypertension-Diagnosis.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Hypertension Diagnosis". News-Medical. 07 February 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hypertension-Diagnosis.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Hypertension Diagnosis". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hypertension-Diagnosis.aspx. (accessed February 07, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. Hypertension Diagnosis. News-Medical, viewed 07 February 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hypertension-Diagnosis.aspx.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
Study finds link between early coronary heart disease and dementia