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Resistant hypertension
  1. Robert H Fagard
  1. Correspondence to Professor Robert H Fagard, University of Leuven KU Leuven, Hypertension Unit, UZ Gasthuisberg, Herestraat 49 B-3000 Leuven, Belgium; robert.fagard{at}

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High blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors influencing the global burden of cardiovascular disease, resulting in increased incidence of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, sudden death, stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease, and renal insufficiency. Hypertension affects about 25% of adults around the world and is estimated to lead to over seven million deaths each year—that is, about 13% of the total number of deaths worldwide. Lifestyle changes are able to lower blood pressure and prevent the development of hypertension, and antihypertensive drug treatment has been shown to reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular complications in hypertensive patients. Despite current knowledge on the management of hypertension and the availability of numerous effective antihypertensive drugs and combinations of drugs, hypertension remains inadequately controlled in many patients and a number of them are considered to have so-called ‘resistant hypertension’.

The following issues will be discussed in this article on resistant hypertension: definition; prevalence; causes; target organ damage and cardiovascular complications; patient evaluation; and management. It is of note, however, that much of the knowledge on resistant hypertension is observational in nature, and that hard evidence is scarce, apart from a number of recent randomised controlled trials. This article will highlight new developments, with due respect for current generally accepted knowledge.


Although the wording varies in different publications, resistant hypertension is conventionally defined as the failure to lower systolic and diastolic (office) blood pressure to goal in patients who are adhering to lifestyle measures and to the optimal doses of an appropriate regimen of three antihypertensive drugs from different classes, one of which is a diuretic.1–3 The goal blood pressure is usually defined as <140 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and <90 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure; in some studies the goal is lowered to <130/80 mm Hg for patients …

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  • Competing interests In compliance with EBAC/EACCME guidelines, all authors participating in Education in Heart have disclosed potential conflicts of interest that might cause a bias in the article. The author has no competing interests.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.