High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.
It is a silent enemy and can cause serious health issues if not recognized and treated.
Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It has two numbers.
- Top number (systolic pressure). The first, or upper number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- Bottom number (diastolic pressure). The second, or lower number measures the pressure in your arteries between beats.
You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. High blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. Once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.
Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels.
A few people with high blood pressure may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren't specific and usually don't occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.
Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you're age 40 or older, or you're 18 to 39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year.
- Blood Pressure should be less than 120/80
- Elevated: 129 /less than 80 (pre-hypertension)
- Stage 1: 130 to 139 / 89 to 89
- Stage 2: 140 or higher/90 or higher over 65 over 150
- Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180/120 needs immediate attention
Blood pressure generally should be checked in both arms to determine if there's a difference. It's important to use an appropriate-sized arm cuff.
Your doctor will likely recommend more-frequent readings if you've already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Children age 3 and older will usually have blood pressure measured as a part of their yearly checkups.
If you can purchase a BP monitor, keep a journal and take your BP once a day after you take your medication if you are taking meds, one hour after. If no medications, take one hour after getting up in the am. Make sure you have the right size cuff, support your arm at heart level.
Most people with hypertension have no symptoms until they have heart or other health issues. Hypertension affects all organs especially the heart, kidneys and brain.
Your physician will do a medical exam and ask about family history, and:
- May order a 24 hour blood pressure monitoring device to determine if you are hypertensive.
- May suggest you lose some weight depending on your current weight and BMI (Body Mass Index).
- May order lab studies, EKG and others as indicated.
- Discuss nutrition, such as avoiding salt and following an eating plan such as the DASH diet. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456)
- May recommend a nutrition consult.
- Start walking. Start slow, to work up to 150 min a week.
The physician will follow you closely to determine if you would benefit from medication . There are many medications that can be used to manage hypertension. You may be given 30 to 60 days to see if lifestyle changes are effective before starting on medication.
Limit alcohol and if you smoke -quit
You should aim for a blood pressure treatment goal of less than 130/80 mm Hg
Ask your doctor what your blood pressure treatment goal should be. Also, the ideal blood pressure treatment goal can vary with age and health conditions, particularly if you're older than age 65.
Here is to your good health! Cathy