Updated 07 July 2014

What’s the difference between high blood pressure and hypertension?

High blood pressure is an oft-misapplied term. So is hypertension. So what’s the difference, and does it really matter?

High blood pressure is an oft-misapplied term. So is hypertension. So what’s the difference, and does it really matter?

If you’re in good health, your blood pressure will fluctuate during the day, depending on your stress level, how much caffeine you’ve had, whether you’re exerting yourself and so on.

Taking your blood pressure when you’ve just heard that your house has been burgled, or after you’ve had three double espressos will show that you have high blood pressure. That’s not necessarily dangerous.

It’s when your blood pressure stays elevated for prolonged periods that the danger creeps in.

When your blood pressure stays high for a long time, you have hypertension. A number of factors can contribute to this: smoking, drinking too much, obesity and high salt intake can cause trouble.

Another factor is heredity: you may simply have inherited hypertension. It seems unfair, but it’s true.

So while you’re likely to have high blood pressure at some stage of your life, you don’t necessarily have hypertension. Seeing your doctor regularly and knowing your family history will help establish which category you fall into.

Read more:
Hypertension and fasting
Risk factors you can control


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Hypertension expert

Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules