Introduction to Hypertension Clinic

Care for High Blood Pressure

Health care providers at University of Utah Health Care realize how much impact high blood pressure (also called hypertension) can have on your health. At the Hypertension Clinic, located in the Cardiovascular Center, we treat this condition and help patients monitor chronic high blood pressure.

As a multi-specialty clinic, we provide you access to specialists from internal medicine, endocrinology, nephrology, vascular surgery, and cardiology to advise you on the best ways to manage your high blood pressure. Additionally, we consistently conduct research, which allows us to offer patients the most cutting-edge advances in treatments for hypertension.


  • Individual evaluation - Whether you are referred by your primary care physician, another specialist, or have personal concerns about your blood pressure, the evaluations provided by the hypertension clinic are designed to present you with your best options for treatment.
  • 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring studies - These studies give physicians the best information about your blood pressure from overnight changes to morning surges. They also provide the most accurate estimation of true blood pressure currently possible.
  • Home blood pressure monitoring training - Your physician can help you learn to monitor your blood pressure at home or outside of the clinic.
Take the Blood Pressure Quiz
High blood pressure facts

High Blood Pressure/Hypertension

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls. The force is generated with each heartbeat as blood is pumped from the heart into the blood vessels. The size and elasticity of the artery walls also affect blood pressure. Each time the heart beats (contracts and relaxes), pressure is created inside the arteries.

The pressure is greatest when blood is pumped out of the heart into the arteries. When the heart relaxes between beats (blood is not moving out of the heart), the pressure falls in the arteries.

Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure.

  • The top number, or systolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body.

  • The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and is filling with blood.

Both the systolic and diastolic pressures are recorded as "mm Hg" (millimeters of mercury). This recording represents how high the mercury column in the blood pressure cuff is raised by the pressure of the blood.

Blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope by a nurse or other healthcare provider. You can also take your own blood pressure with an electronic blood pressure monitor. These are available at most pharmacies.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, directly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. With high blood pressure, the arteries may have an increased resistance against the flow of blood, causing the heart to pump harder to circulate the blood. Usually, high blood pressure has no signs or symptoms. However, you can know if your blood pressure is high by checking it yourself or by having it checked regularly by your healthcare provider.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has determined 2 levels of high blood pressure for adults:

  • Stage 1

    • 140 mm Hg to 159 mm Hg systolic pressure—higher number


    • 90 mm Hg to 99 mm Hg diastolic pressure—lower number 

  • Stage 2

    • 160 mm Hg or higher systolic pressure


    • 100 mm Hg or higher diastolic pressure

The NHLBI defines prehypertension as:

  • 120 mm Hg to 139 mm Hg systolic pressure


  • 80 mm Hg to 89 mm Hg diastolic pressure

The NHLBI guidelines define normal blood pressure as follows:

  • Less than 120 mm Hg systolic pressure


  • Less than 80 mm Hg diastolic pressure

Use these numbers as a guide only. A single elevated blood pressure measurement is not necessarily an indication of a problem. Your healthcare provider will want to see multiple blood pressure measurements over several days or weeks before making a diagnosis of high blood pressure and starting treatment. If you normally run a lower-than-usual blood pressure, you may be diagnosed with high blood pressure with blood pressure measurements lower than 140/90.

What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?

Nearly one-third of all Americans have high blood pressure, but it is particularly prevalent in:

  • People who have diabetes, gout, or kidney disease

  • African Americans (particularly those who live in the southeastern U.S.)

  • People in their early to middle adult years; men in this age group have higher blood pressure more often than women in this age group

  • People in their middle to later adult years; women in this age group have higher blood pressure more often than men in this age group (more women have high blood pressure after menopause than men of the same age)

  • Middle-aged and elderly people; more than half of all Americans age 60 and older have high blood pressure

  • People with a family history of high blood pressure

  • People consuming a high salt diet

  • Overweight people

  • Heavy drinkers of alcohol

  • Women who are taking oral contraceptives

  • People with depression

How does blood pressure increase?

The following conditions contribute to high blood pressure:

  • Being overweight

  • Excessive sodium intake

  • A lack of exercise and physical activity

How is high blood pressure controlled?

These steps can help you control your blood pressure:

  • Take prescribed medicine exactly as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Choose foods that are low in sodium (salt)

  • Choose foods low in calories and fat

  • Choose foods high in fiber

  • Maintain a healthy weight, or losing weight if overweight

  • Limit serving sizes

  • Increase physical activity

  • Reduce or omit alcoholic beverages

Sometimes daily medicine is needed to control high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, have your blood pressure checked routinely and see your healthcare provider to monitor the condition.


Josephine D. Abraham, M.D., M.P.H., FASN

Patient Rating:


4.9 out of 5

Josephine Abraham MD, MPH is a nephrologist at the University of Utah School of Medicine. In 1981, she began her undergraduate and medical training at the University of Madras, India which she completed in 1987. After training briefly in the United Kingdom and completing a Masters in Public Health at the University of Utah, she went on to finish h... Read More


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Theophilus Owan, M.D.

Patient Rating:


4.8 out of 5

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Debra L. Simmons, M.D., M.S., FACE, FACP

Patient Rating:


4.5 out of 5

Dr. Debra Lynn Simmons is a professor of medicine at University of Utah and Director of Clinical Affairs, Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center. Dr. Simmons is board certified in internal medicine as well as endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism and a diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Lipidology. In addition to her medical degree from... Read More

Barry M. Stults, M.D.

Patient Rating:


5.0 out of 5

Barry M. Stults, M.D. is Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Utah Medical Center, Madsen Clinic-Internal Medicine, and Salt Lake City VA Medical Center. As a general internist, his clinical interests include all aspects of adult preventive health care and acute and chronic adult health problems (eg., hypertension, diabetes, cholest... Read More


Hypertension, Internal Medicine, General, Pulmonary


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(801) 581-7790


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Cardiovascular Center
50 N Medical Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84132
(801) 585-7676