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High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood pushing against blood vessels is consistently too high. Certain environmental and behavioral factors help to maintain healthy blood pressure and can be promoted by the built environment (e.g., spaces for physical activity, access to fresh foods, spaces for recuperation).


Blood pressure is defined as the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. A certain level of pressure differential is necessary to carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. However, high blood pressure occurs when blood pressure measurements are consistently above normal, and especially high at rest.

Human Health Mechanism

High blood pressure causes harm by increasing the workload of the heart and blood vessels and making them work less efficiently. Over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries. High levels of cholesterol are often correlated with high blood pressure, and this cholesterol forms plaque along tiny tears in artery walls, thus narrowing the insides of the arteries. Because artery walls are narrower from plaque build-up, blood pressure continues to rise in a dangerous feed-back loop as the heart works harder to pump blood through narrow passages.

Indicator Measurement

Data are available through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) PLACES public dashboard and are collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is a state-based, telephone interview survey. BRFSS provides high blood pressure prevalence data by modeling the percentage of adults who report ever having been told by a doctor, nurse, or other health professional that they have high blood pressure. Women who were told high blood pressure only during pregnancy and those who were told they had borderline hypertension were not included.

Related Health Outcomes & Exposures

Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity, Physical Inactivity, PM2.5, Ozone, Extreme Heat, Food Insecurity, Lack of Insurance, No Regular Check-up, Noise, Smoking, Traffic Proximity, Wildfire


Click here for References
  1. High Blood Pressure Data Source: CDC PLACES: High Blood Pressure. Data year 2019. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Beevers G, Lip GY, O’Brien E. ABC of hypertension: The pathophysiology of hypertension. BMJ. 2001;322(7291):912-916. doi:10.1136/bmj.322.7291.912
  3. CDC PLACES: Measure Definitions: Health Outcomes: High Blood Pressure. Published May 19, 2023. Accessed November 10, 2023.
  4. Facts About Hypertension. Published September 27, 2021. Accessed November 10, 2023.
  5. Giorgini P, Di Giosia P, Grassi D, Rubenfire M, Brook RD, Ferri C. Air Pollution Exposure and Blood Pressure: An Updated Review of the Literature. Curr Pharm Des. 2016;22(1):28-51. doi:10.2174/1381612822666151109111712