Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries, which carry the blood throughout the body. A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher is considered hypertension. Both numbers are important. If one or both numbers is elevated you have hypertension. High blood pressure (hypertension) is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and it contributes to hardening of the arteries.
There are usually no symptoms or signs of high blood pressure. In fact, nearly one-third of those who have it do not know it. The only way to know if you have hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
If your blood pressure is extremely high, look for these symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue or confusion
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vision problems
- Blood in the urine
- Chest pain
- Older age
- Genetics (family history of high blood pressure)
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day)
How it is Diagnosed:
Two levels of pressure are measured with an inflatable arm cuff and a pressure-measuring gauge. Each level is recorded as a number. The numbers are written side by side or one above the other. For example, your doctor may say your blood pressure is 130 over 90.
Systolic pressure 130 Diastolic pressure 90 Said: 130 over 90
Systolic pressure is the pressure placed on artery walls as the heart beats and pushes blood into the arteries. Diastolic pressure is the pressure left in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats.
Changing your lifestyle can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking
- Lose weight
- Eat a healthy diet
- Low sodium intake
Sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough. In addition to diet and exercise, your doctor may recommend medication to lower your blood pressure. Which category of medication your doctor prescribes depends on your stage of high blood pressure and whether you also have other medical conditions. To reduce the number of doses you need a day, which can reduce side effects, your doctor may prescribe a combination of low-dose medications rather than larger doses of one single drug. In fact, two or more blood pressure drugs often work better than one. Sometimes finding the most effective medication — or combination of drugs — is a matter of trial and error.
What are the associated health problems?
Hypertension is a serious condition that can damage the blood vessels and can lead to several other conditions including:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Vision changes