Essential hypertension can be defined as a rise in blood pressure of unknown cause that increases risk for cerebral, cardiac, and renal events. In industrialised countries, the risk of becoming hypertensive (blood pressure >140/90 mm Hg) during a lifetime exceeds 90%. Essential hypertension usually clusters with other cardiovascular risk factors such as ageing, being overweight, insulin resistance, diabetes, and hyperlipidaemia. Subtle target-organ damage such as left-ventricular hypertrophy, microalbuminuria, and cognitive dysfunction takes place early in the course of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, although catastrophic events such as stroke, heart attack, renal failure, and dementia usually happen after long periods of uncontrolled hypertension only. All antihypertensive drugs lower blood pressure (by definition) and this decline is the best determinant of cardiovascular risk reduction. However, differences between drugs exist with respect to reduction of target-organ disease and prevention of major cardiovascular events. Most hypertensive patients need two or more drugs for blood-pressure control and concomitant statin treatment for risk factor reduction. Despite the availability of effective and safe antihypertensive drugs, hypertension and its concomitant risk factors remain uncontrolled in most patients.