High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a condition in which the pressure of the blood pumping through the arteries is abnormally high. Having high blood can increase your risk of stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, heart attack and kidney damage. More than 50 million Americans have high blood pressure, and a third are entirely unaware that they have it.

A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers:

  • Systolic pressure, which indicates the contraction of the heart muscle (top number)
  • Diastolic pressure, measures the blood pressure when the heart relaxes between beats (bottom number)

Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” because symptoms of high blood pressure do not appear for years until a vital organ is threatened. Signs of long-untreated high blood pressure (such as headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, restlessness and blurred vision) can be the result of damage to the brain, eyes, heart and kidneys.

How Is Blood Pressure Tested?
The only way to know for sure is to be checked. Your doctor can check your blood pressure in the office, or you can check your blood pressure at home using a digital blood pressure monitor. Digital blood pressure cuffs can be purchased at your local drug store or retail stores.

For most people a normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80 or “120/80.” If either number is high, your blood pressure is high. Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be. Also ask your doctor how often you should check your blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Category:

NORMAL ↓ 120 Systolic and ↓ than 80 Diastolic
120-139 Systolic and 80-89 Diastolic

140-159 Systolic and 90-99 Diastolic

160 Systolic or ↑ and 100 or diastolic or ↑

↑ than 180 systolic and ↑ than 110 diastolic

Who is at risk?

Anyone can develop high blood pressure, but you are at a greater risk if you:

  • Are over 45 years old
  • Are overweight
  • Are African American
  • Have a family member with high blood pressure
  • Eat a diet high in salt
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Smoke

(You can check your risk at http://www.heart.org/beatyourrisk/en_US/main.html)

Treatment of High Blood Pressure
If an underlying disease or condition has been identified as the cause, treatment of high blood pressure will focus on that condition. When it has been brought under control, your high blood pressure may go away.

Before using drugs to control high blood pressure, most doctors will suggest:

  • Avoiding alcoholic drinks
  • Cutting down on salt
  • Exercising regularly
  • Losing weight
  • Making sure you get enough calcium, magnesium and potassium
  • Quitting smoking

If these approaches are not effective, the patient may need to take daily drugs to lower blood pressure.