The organs in your body need oxygen to survive. Oxygen is carried through the body by the blood. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped arteries and veins, also known as blood vessels and capillaries.

      Healthy arteries are made of muscle and a semi-flexible tissue that stretches like elastic when the heart pumps blood through them. The more forcefully that blood pumps, the more the arteries stretch to allow blood to easily flow. Over time, if the force of the blood flow is often high, the tissue that makes up the walls of arteries gets stretched beyond its healthy limit. This can create the following problems:


  • Vascular weaknesses- the overstretching creates weak places in the vessels, making them more prone to rupture which may cause strokes and aneurysms
  • Vascular scarring- the overstretching can cause tiny tears in the blood vessels that leave scar tissue on the walls of arteries and veins which can catch debris such as cholesterol, plaque or blood cells traveling in the bloodstream
  • Increased risk of blood clots- trapped blood can form clots that can narrow and sometimes block the arteries which can lead to heart attacks or strokes
  • Increased plaque build-up- cholesterol and plaque build-up in the arteries and veins cause the blood flow to become limited or even cut off increasing pressure on the rest of the system, forcing the heart to work harder to deliver blood to your body
  • Increased workload on the circulatory system- increased pressure on some arteries and veins leads to higher pressure in all others


Blood Pressure

mm Hg (upper #)

mm Hg (lower #)


less than 120


less than 80





High Blood Pressure




High Blood Pressure

160 or higher


100 or higher

Hypertensive Crisis

Higher than 180


Higher than 110



Systolic- top number which measures pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts

Diastolic- bottom number which measures pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (muscle resting)




  • American Heart Association. High Blood Pressure. Accessed Feb 2, 2015. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp