A description of the medical terms used in this high blood pressure guide.


ACE inhibitor

A type of high blood pressure medication: this works by widening and opening the arteries which allows blood to flow through as normal.


A hormone which is released during a ‘fight or flight’reaction: this has the effect of narrowing the arteries which causes blood pressure to rise.

Alpha blocker

Another type of high blood pressure medication: this blocks the effects of adrenaline which prevents the arteries from narrowing and reduces blood pressure.


A medical condition which is caused by a narrowing of the arteries. This restricts the flow of blood to the heart which prevents it from working as normal. Manifests itself as pain in the chest which spreads to the arm, neck and jaw.


This is a hormone produced in the body which when released, causes the arteries to narrow, thereby raising the blood pressure. It can also cause the release of other chemicals which also increase blood pressure.

Angiotensin receptor blocker

A high blood pressure medication which works by obstructing the hormone angiotensin. This causes the arteries to relax and widen which allows blood to flow through.


A narrowing and thickening of the walls of the arteries which is caused by high blood pressure. These arteries can become weakened or even rupture which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

This is a general term which includes several conditions such as atherosclerosis.


The build up of fatty deposits (containing fats and cholesterol) within the artery walls. Also known as ‘furring’. This can lead to arteriosclerosis.


Beta blocker

Another form of high blood pressure medication although this is less commonly prescribed. It works by slowing down the heart rate and opening up the arteries. This reduces the blood pressure.


Calcium channel blocker

This high blood pressure medication prevents calcium from building up within the arteries -which narrows and tightens them. This medication enables the arteries to stay open and relaxed which also lowers blood pressure.


The name given to a fatty substance that is produced by the liver. It is also found in high fat foods. There are two types -‘good’cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol. Bad cholesterol builds up within the arteries which can lead to conditions such as atherosclerosis.

Cushing’s syndrome

This is a type of hormone disorder characterised by excessive levels of cortisol in the blood. Symptoms of this include rapid weight gain, excessive sweating, high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.



A common condition in which a person is unable to produce or regulate their insulin levels. There are two forms of this condition -type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

A person with this condition is prone to fluctuations in their blood sugar levels. High blood sugars can damage the arteries which lead to high blood pressure and eventually, heart disease.


The ‘bottom’number in a blood pressure reading. For example ‘120/80’the diastolic number is 80.

The top number is called systolic pressure.


A form of medication used to treat high blood pressure which does so by removing excess salt and water from the blood. Removing this excess will lower blood pressure.



A blood pressure test which uses an ultrasound scan to check the workings of your heart. This is carried out to check if the patient has an enlarged heart as a result of high blood pressure.


Known as an ECG for short: it involves measuring the electrical activity of the heart to check if it is affected by high blood pressure.

Essential hypertension

Another name for primary high blood pressure. The most common form of high blood pressure which occurs for no distinct reason, e.g. lifestyle reasons. The other type of high blood pressure is called secondary hypertension.


Folic acid

An essential nutrient, which occurs in certain foods, which may help to prevent high blood pressure.



An eye disorder in which the optic nerve is damaged, leading to blindness if left untreated. Can be caused by high blood pressure.


Heart attack

This occurs when the heart muscle is starved of oxygen as a result of a blocked artery due to high blood pressure. The medical name for this is a myocardial infarction.

Heart failure

This describes a state in which the heart is unable to function as normal. It is caused by high blood pressure which forces the heart to work harder thereby increasing its size but reducing its efficiency.

High blood pressure

A condition in which extra pressure is exerted upon the artery walls as blood flows through them. This pressure then causes the heart to work harder to pump blood around the body which damages it over time.

Also known as hypertension.


The medical name for high blood pressure.


The medical term for low blood pressure.



The medical name for restricted blood flow to a part of the body due to a blockage in an artery. If this flow is completely stopped it is then known as an infarct.

One example of this is a blockage in an artery to the brain which can lead to a stroke.


None at present.


Kidney disease

The name given to a number of conditions in which the kidneys are unable to function as per normal. This is caused by high blood pressure but conversely, high blood pressure can lead to kidney disease.

Kidney failure

A severe form of kidney disease in which the kidneys are unable to filter waste products from the blood. This is caused by diabetes and high blood pressure.



A disease of the immune system: the immune system suddenly attacks the body causing damage and inflammation. It usually affects the kidneys, heart, lungs, arteries and nervous system.

The immune system damages the body’s cells and tissues which joint pains and skin rashes.


Malignant hypertension

This type of high blood pressure suddenly occurs for no apparent reason. It causes a rapid increase in blood pressure which requires urgent treatment.


This stands for ‘millimetres of mercury’ and is used as a measurement of blood pressure.

Myocardial infarction

The medical name for a heart attack.



The medical term used to define kidney disease.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

The name given to a group of drugs which act as painkillers, e.g. Ibuprofen. These drugs can raise blood pressure so must be avoided by patients with high blood pressure.


A hormone released by the body which can narrow certain arteries. This has the effect of raising blood pressure.



A term used to describe a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. This excessive form of weight gain can lead to high blood pressure and other health problems.


A build up of fluid within the body, e.g. ankles and legs as a result of kidney disease or heart failure.

It is also a side effect of calcium channel blocker medication.


Peripheral artery disease

The name given to damage caused to the small blood vessels within the legs caused by high blood pressure.


A type of high blood pressure which may develop after the 20th week of pregnancy. Often develops in conjunction with a leakage of protein into the mother’s urine. This can be dangerous for both the mother and baby.

Pregnancy induced hypertension

High blood pressure which develops during pregnancy but returns to normal following childbirth.


None at present.



A type of hormone, produced by the kidneys, which raises blood pressure. This forces the body to release a hormone called angiotensin which causes the arteries to narrow.


An eye condition caused by damage to the tiny blood vessels which lead to the retina from high blood pressure. This may cause a loss of vision.



The medical name for a hardening of the arteries which causes blood pressure to rise.

Secondary hypertension

The other less well known form of high blood pressure which develops for a specific reason such as a medical condition, e.g. kidney disease.

The other and more popular form of high blood pressure is essential hypertension.


A component part of salt which is responsible for raising blood pressure.


Medication used to lower cholesterol levels.


The ‘top’number of a blood pressure reading as opposed to diastolic (bottom number). For example the ‘120’number in a reading of 120/80.



The name given to the formation of a blood clot within an artery which can detach itself from the artery wall and cause a blockage in the blood supply. If this blockage occurs within an artery to the heart then it will cause a heart attack.


Urine test

A common test performed to detect the presence of sugar and other substances in a sample of urine which can indicate diabetes or kidney disease.


Vascular dementia

A type of dementia which occurs as a result of damage to the small arteries within the brain as caused by a stroke. This can affect reasoning, memory and perception.


White coat effect

The common name for white coat hypertension: this refers to a situation in which someone experiences anxiety before they undergo a blood pressure reading at their GP’s surgery. This causes a higher than normal reading.

This person would experience a normal reading at home.


None at present.


None at present.


None at present.

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