The term prehypertension was coined in 1939 in the context of early studies that linked high blood pressure recorded during physical examination for life insurance purposes to subsequent morbidity and mortality. These studies demonstrated that individuals with blood pressure 120/80 mmHg, but 140/90 mmHgthe accepted value for the lower limit of the hypertensive rangehad an increased risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and early death from cardiovascular causes. The prehypertension classification of blood pressure was later used by the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure to define a group of individuals at increased risk of cardiovascular events because of elevated blood pressure, an increased burden of other risk factors such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and inflammatory markers, and evidence of organ damage for example, microalbuminuria, retinal arteriolar narrowing, increased carotid arterial intima-media thickness, left ventricular hypertrophy and coronary artery disease. Nonpharmacological treatment with lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, dietary modification and increased physical activity is recommended for all patients with prehypertension as these approaches effectively reduce risk of cardiovascular events. Pharmacological therapy is indicated for some patients with prehypertension who have specific comorbidities, including diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease and coronary artery disease. © 2010 Macmillan Publisher Limited. All rights reserved.