High Blood Pressure (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
What Is Considered High Blood Pressure?
Many symptoms present gradually after years of poorly blood pressure control. Many times, the first knowledge of hypertension occurs when a patient complains of chest pain or has stroke-like symptoms. Should these occur, it is appropriate to call 911 immediately (if available) to activate emergency medical services and seek care.
You may be directed to seek medical care if blood pressure readings are elevated if done as part of a community health screening. Isolated elevated blood pressure readings do not necessarily make the diagnosis of hypertension. Blood pressure readings vary throughout the day, and your primary care provider may record a different reading than the one that was measured in a screening that sent you in for care.
There are non-specific symptoms associated with hypertension that may cause a person to seek care, including lightheadedness, dizziness, headache with or without nausea, change in vision, or lethargy and fatigue. There are many other reasons to develop these symptoms other than high blood pressure.
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?
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Blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer). This may be done using a stethoscope and a cuff and gauge or by an automatic machine. It is a routine part of the physical examination and one of the vital signs often recorded for a patient visit. Other vital signs include pulse rate, respiratory rate (breathing rate), temperature, and weight.
When discussing blood pressure issues, the health care practitioner may ask questions about past medical history, family history, and medication use, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and food additives. Other questions may include lifestyle habits, including activity levels, smoking, alcohol consumption, and illegal drug use.
Physical examination may include listening to the heart and lungs, feeling for pulse in the wrist and ankles, and feeling and listening to the abdomen looking for signs of an enlarged aorta. Eye examination with an ophthalmoscope may be helpful by looking at the small blood vessels on the retina in the back of the eyeball.
Blood tests may be considered to assess risk factors for heart disease and stroke as well as looking for complications of hypertension. These include complete blood count (CBC), electrolytes, BUN (blood urea nitrogen), and creatinine and GFR (glomerular filtration rate) to measure kidney function. A fasting lipid profile will measure cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. If appropriate, blood tests may be considered to look for an underlying cause of high blood pressure including abnormal thyroid or adrenal gland function.
Other studies may be considered depending upon the individual patient's needs
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/17/2016
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