Uncontrolled hypertension means an individual has blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg. It can refer to when high blood pressure has been untreated or when treatments have been ineffective.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 21% of adults have high blood pressure that’s not controlled. Although these individuals may not have noticeable symptoms as a result of their uncontrolled hypertension, their high blood pressure can present a serious risk of other health conditions like stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease.

If you or someone you care about has recently received a diagnosis of high blood pressure, you may have a lot of questions.

This article will explain what uncontrolled hypertension means, how it differs from other hypertension types, and what you may consider consulting your care team about when it comes to treating and changing treatments.

Uncontrolled hypertension means that you have a blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg.

Your hypertension may be classified as uncontrolled if it’s not being treated or if medications that are supposed to help lower your blood pressure have been ineffective so far.

Uncontrolled hypertension is a broad term that can be applied to many different situations, but resistant and refractory hypertension refer to situations where hypertension persists despite specific amounts of treatment.

Resistant hypertension means that an individual continues to have a blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg despite the use of three different medications designed to reduce it, including a diuretic for 6 months.

On the other hand, refractory hypertension has been defined as continued uncontrolled hypertension despite taking the maximum tolerated doses of at least five different hypertension-related medications.

Hypertension can develop and evolve as a result of primary and secondary causes.

Primary causes of hypertension include aging and lifestyle factors like smoking, a salt-heavy diet, and not exercising. Secondary causes include other health conditions and medications that can raise your blood pressure.

Although primary and secondary causes of hypertension can individually result in high blood pressure, an individual may also experience hypertension as a result of both primary and secondary causes at the same time.

Additionally, it’s possible for more primary and secondary causes of hypertension to appear as time passes. This can raise your blood pressure to higher levels, require additional medications for treatment, and affect how an your hypertension is classified.

Uncontrolled hypertension may be the result of untreated hypertension or because an individual’s current hypertension treatment plan isn’t effectively reducing their blood pressure.

In some cases, it’s possible to identify that a health condition or the use of certain medications is raising an individual’s blood pressure. But the exact cause of many cases of hypertension are unknown. There’s likely a combination of many genetic and lifestyle factors contributing in these cases.

Along with genetics, lifestyle can play a role in uncontrolled hypertension. Lifestyle factors that can raise blood pressure include:

  • smoking
  • obesity
  • consuming a diet high in salt or alcohol
  • lack of physical activity

Individuals can experience uncontrolled hypertension because they’re not taking the proper medications or not taking medications as prescribed. Before prescribing new medications, a doctor or other healthcare professional may ask questions to determine that current medications are being taken as expected.

Some individuals may appear to have uncontrolled hypertension, but their blood pressure is just not being read accurately. Individuals may also appear to have uncontrolled hypertension if they’re experiencing white coat hypertension. You can read more about that here.

Many people won’t experience symptoms of hypertension. But symptoms can include:

  • chest pain
  • abnormal heart rhythms
  • nosebleeds
  • difficulty breathing
  • anxiety and confusion
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • vision changes
  • buzzing in your ears

A doctor may recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to help treat uncontrolled hypertension. You may also be referred to a hypertension specialist.

If you’re on other medications, a doctor may advise withdrawing from those known to increase blood pressure if you have uncontrolled hypertension.

Individuals with a blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg may have received a diagnosis of uncontrolled hypertension. This can mean that an individual isn’t treating their hypertension or that current treatments for high blood pressure have been ineffective.

High blood pressure may be due to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. It may also be the result of underlying health conditions and medications that raise blood pressure. If you have uncontrolled hypertension, it’s important to talk with a doctor about ways to reduce your blood pressure, since it can carry serious potential health risks.