Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Persistent high blood pressure can lead to increased strain to the heart and arteries that can eventually cause organ damage.
To classify the blood pressure, it must be based on ≥2 properly measured, seated blood pressure readings on each of ≥2 office visits.
Patients who have a blood pressure reading of 140 SBP or 90 DBP or both can be diagnosed as hypertensive patients.
Goals of therapy are to manage hypertension that can maintain the patient's normal blood pressure and identify and treat all reversible risk factors.


  • Classification must be based on the average of ≥2 properly measured, seated BP readings on each of ≥2 office visits
  • Various consensus guidelines are available as standard references for the definition of hypertension
  • BP Classification based on JNC 7*
    and 2014 ASH/ISH
    BP Classification based on 2013 ESH-ESC** SBP(mmHg) DBP(mmHg)
    Normal Optimal <120 and <80
    Prehypertension Normal 120-129 and/or 80-84
    High Normal 130-139 and/or 85-89
    Hypertension Stage 1 Grade 1 hypertension 140-159 and/or 90-99
    Hypertension Stage 2 Grade 2 hypertension 160-179 and/or 100-109
    Grade 3 hypertension ≥180 and/or ≥110
      Isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) ≥140 and <90
    * JNC 8 did not address definitions of prehypertension and hypertension, only thresholds for pharmacologic treatment were defined 
    **Similar BP classification is also used by the Guideline for the Management of Hypertension in Cardiovascular Disease by the Indonesian Heart Association (PERKI) 2015

Risk Stratification

  • All patients should be classified not only in relation to stages of hypertension but also in terms of total cardiovascular (CV) risk resulting from coexistence of different risk factors, organ damage and disease
  • Decisions on management of hypertension should be based on BP levels along with other CV risk factors and target organ damage (TOD)
  • A study revealed that in patients being given aggressive antihypertensive therapy, prolonged QRS duration confers higher risk of sudden cardiac death in this subset of patients
  • SBP is better in quantifying prognosis than DBP in patients >50 years old
    • In younger patients without comorbidities, DBP is a more important CV risk factor
  • Pulse pressure is also a good predictor of CV events in elderly patients
Blood pressure (mmHg) No other risk factors 1-2 risk factors ≥3 risk factors, TOD TOD, CKD Stage 3 or Diabetes Symptomatic CVD, CKD Stage ≥4 or Diabetes with TOD/RFs
SBP 130-139 or DBP 85-89   Low risk Low to Moderate risk Moderate to High risk Very High risk
SBP 140-159 or DBP 90-99 Low risk Moderate risk Moderate to High risk High risk Very High risk
SBP 160-179 or DBP 100-109 Moderate risk Moderate to High risk High risk High risk Very High risk
SBP ≥ 180 or DBP ≥ 110 High risk High risk High risk High to Very High risk Very High risk
Adapted from: 2013 European Society of Hypertension-European Society of Cardiology guidelines for the management of arterial hypertension


  • If patient is found to have chronic elevated BP, then they should undergo further assessment to determine secondary causes, TOD, cardiovascular risk factors or concomitant disorders that will affect prognosis

Identifiable Secondary Causes of Hypertension

  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Chronic steroid therapy and Cushing Syndrome
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Drug-induced
    • Prescription, over-the-counter medications, herbal supplement, use of illicit drugs, etc
  • Takayasu arteritis
  • Obesity
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Primary aldosteronism
  • Renovascular disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid and parathyroid disorders

CV Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • Male sex
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Sleep apnea; snoring
  • Men >55 years old, women >65 years old
  • Obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m2)
  • Microalbuminuria or estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) <60 mL/minute
  • Fasting plasma glucose 5.6-6.9 mmol/L
  • Family history of premature CV disease (<55 years for male relative or <65 years for female relative)
  • Abdominal obesity [waist circumference: Men ≥102 cm; women ≥88 cm (Caucasian)]

Target Organ Damage (TOD)

  • Heart: Left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy, angina/prior MI, prior coronary revascularization, heart failure
  • Brain: Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), dementia
  • Kidney: Chronic kidney disease
  • Vascular: Peripheral arterial disease
  • Eyes: Retinopathy


  • History should be taken with emphasis on hypertension, DM, dyslipidemia and premature coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke or renal disease
    • Level and duration of elevated BP
    • Usual range of BP; current/past antihypertensive medications and history of adherence to treatment
    • Symptoms of secondary causes of hypertension (eg sweating, headache and palpitation in pheochromocytoma; muscle weakness and tetany in hyperaldosteronism)
    • Lifestyle and environmental evaluation (eg dietary intake of fat, salt and alcohol, physical activity, smoking status, weight gain since young adulthood, snoring during sleep and daytime tiredness/sleepiness warranting screening for obstructive sleep apnea)
    • Medication history of prescribed and over-the-counter medications, use of herbal supplements and illicit drugs
    • History or current symptoms of TOD (eg CHD, cerebrovascular disease, cognitive dysfunction)
    • History or current symptoms of concomitant diseases that will affect prognosis (eg DM, renal disease, gout, UTI, thyroid disease, etc)
    • Family history of high BP, stroke, diabetes, CKD, CVD, CHD, renal disease and dyslipidemia
    • Occupational history (eg with frequent travels or long trips, consider time changes, medication schedule, prevention of complications, etc)

Physical Examination

  • Appropriate BP measurement with verification in contralateral arm
  • Examination of optic fundi
  • Calculation of body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference - risk for metabolic syndrome or for type 2 DM is high when waist circumference is >102 cm in men, >88 cm in women
  • Heart rate (patient at rest)
  • Auscultation for carotid, abdominal and femoral bruits
  • Thorough exam of heart and lungs; palpation of the thyroid gland
  • Exam of the abdomen for truncal obesity, enlarged kidneys, masses, distended urinary bladder and abnormal aortic pulsation
  • Palpation of lower extremities for edema and pulses, eg ankle-brachial index (ABI)
  • Neurological assessment

Laboratory Tests

  • Should be done to exclude secondary causes, provide evidence for additional risk factors and note the occurrence of TOD
    • CBC, urinalysis, renal function test, fasting blood sugar, lipid profile (after 9- to 12-hour fast), serum creatinine, serum K and Na, serum uric acid, liver function tests, 12-lead ECG

Presence of Secondary Cause or Evidence of TOD

  • Patient should be referred to a specialist and treated appropriately if a secondary cause of hypertension is found
  • Further tests should be done if TOD is found in order to evaluate the level of severity


Clinical/Office BP Measurement

  • BP is measured every 2 years in >18 years old but more frequently in those at moderate or high risk of vascular disease
  • Patient should be seated comfortably for 3-5 minutes in a chair, with back supported, feet on the floor and arm supported at heart level prior to measurement of BP
    • Measurement of BP in the standing position is recommended for patients at risk of postural hypotension
  • 2 measurements should be taken spaced by 1-2 minutes
    • A difference of >20/10 mmHg between 2 arms suggest arterial problems and requires further investigation
    • Take BP measurements from sitting, lying, and standing (usually after 1 minute) positions to take note of drops in BP
  • Cuff with bladder 12-13 cm wide and 35 cm long should be used and placed at heart level of the patient
    • Wider cuffs (>32 cm circumference) are needed for large arms and smaller cuffs for thin arms
    • Bladder length should encircle at least 80% of the arm while the width should be at least 40% of arm circumference
  • Use the appearance of phase I Korotkoff’s sounds for SBP and the disappearance of phase V for DBP

Confirmation of Elevated BP

  • In general, diagnosis is confirmed by taking the BP 1-4 weeks after the first measurement; on both times, the SBP should be ≥140 mmHg or DBP ≥90 mmHg, or both

Out-of-Office BP Measurement

  • Ambulatory BP Monitoring (ABPM) automatically measures patient’s BP at regular intervals over a 24-hour period
    • Advantages: Detects masked/white coat hypertension; determines nocturnal BP patterns; evaluates impact of antihypertensive treatments
    • Normal ABPM monitoring results:
      • Day: ≤135/85 mmHg
      • Night: ≤120/70 mmHg
      • 24 hours: ≤130/80 mmHg
    • Abnormal ABPM monitoring results:
      • Day: >140/90 mmHg
      • Night: >125/75 mmHg
      • 24 hours: >135/85 mmHg
  • Home BP Monitoring (HBPM) - self-measurement of BP for over 5-7 days, if possible in duplicate measurement
    • Upper limit to diagnose hypertension: ≥135/85 mmHg

Resistant Hypertension

  • For patients not controlled on 3 drugs, adding an aldosterone antagonist (eg Spironolactone), a beta-blocker, a centrally acting agent, an alpha-blocker, or a direct vasodilator will often be helpful

Consider Expert Referral

If BP still uncontrolled after 3 drugs at near max doses, consider the following:

  • Noncompliance
  • White coat hypertension
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Aldosterone excess
  • Excessive Na intake, drug interactions, etc
  • Secondary hypertension
  • Other secondary causes (eg renal artery stenosis, coarctation of aorta)
  • Complications of long-standing hypertension (eg nephrosclerosis)
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