Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The heart pumps blood into the arteries with enough force to push blood to
the far reaches of each organ from the top of the head to the bottom of the
feet. Blood pressure can be defined as the pressure of blood on the walls of the
arteries as it circulates through the body. Blood pressure is highest as its
leaves the heart through the aorta and gradually decreases as it enters smaller
and smaller blood vessels (arteries, arterioles, and capillaries). Blood returns
in the veins leading to the heart, aided by gravity and muscle contraction.
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. It is known as the
"silent killer" since it has no initial symptoms but can lead to long-term
disease and complications..
Many people have high blood pressure and don't know it.
Public awareness of these dangers has increased. High blood pressure has
become the second most common reason for medical office visits in the United
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff and recorded as two
numbers, for example, 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). Blood pressure
measurements are usually taken at the upper arm over the brachial artery.
The top, larger number is called the systolic pressure. This measures the
pressure generated when the heart contracts (pumps). It reflects the pressure of
the blood against arterial walls.
The bottom, smaller number is called the diastolic pressure. This reflects
the pressure in the arteries while the heart is filling and resting between
The American Heart Association has recommended guidelines to define normal
and high blood pressure.
Normal blood pressure less than 120/80
Pre-hypertension 120-139/ 80-89
High blood pressure (stage 1) 140-159/90-99
High blood pressure (stage 2) higher than 160/100
As many as 60 million Americans have high blood pressure.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure may be responsible for many cases of death
and disability resulting from heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.
According to research studies, the risk of dying of a heart attack is
directly linked to high blood pressure, particularly systolic hypertension. The
higher your blood pressure, the higher the risk. Maintaining lifelong control
of hypertension decreases the future risk of complications such as heart attack and
People who have high blood pressure usually don't have any symptoms. Most people with high blood pressure feel fine. It's during a routine exam or a doctor visit for another problem that they find out that they have high blood pressure.
Very severe high blood pressure (such as 180 over 110 or higher) may lead to malignant high blood pressure. This is also called hypertensive emergency or hypertensive crisis. Very severe high blood pressure is a medical emergency.