What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (hypertension) is when the force of blood pumping through the arteries is consistently too high. When this occurs, the walls of the arteries are extended beyond their normal limit, which can lead to damage and scarring.
What Are Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because many people who have it don’t have any symptoms. The only one way to know for sure if you have high blood pressure is to have a health professional measure it.
In rare cases, severe high blood pressure can cause or be accompanied by symptoms including:
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
Risk factors for developing high blood pressure include:
- Family history
- Up to age 64, men are more likely to develop high blood pressure than women
- At age 65 and older, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure than men
- Race: African-Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more frequently than people of other races in the U.S.
Risk factors for developing high blood pressure that can be prevented or managed include:
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?
Blood pressure is measured with a pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer). The cuff is placed around the upper arm and then manually or electronically inflated. When it is inflated the cuff compresses the brachial artery, the major blood vessel of the upper arm, briefly stopping blood flow. The air in the cuff is then released slowly while the person performing the measurement listens with a stethoscope or monitors an electronic readout.
Blood pressure is expressed in two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure (the first/top number): measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second/bottom number): measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest between beats
These measurements can tell if your blood pressure is normal, high, or low.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) is 140/90 mmHg or more
- Elevated blood pressure levels between 120/80 and 139/89 are considered prehypertension and mean a person is at higher risk for developing high blood pressure
- Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg
Adults 20 years of age and older should have their blood pressure checked during regular doctor visits.
What Is the Treatment for High Blood Pressure?
Lifestyle modifications are often the first line treatment for high blood pressure. These include:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet low in salt
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol
- Exercising regularly
- Managing stress
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Getting adequate sleep
- Taking medications as directed
When medications are needed to treat high blood pressure, they may include:
- ACE inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Peripherally acting alpha-adrenergic blockers
- Angiotensin II antagonists
- Centrally-acting alpha adrenergics
- Renin inhibitors
- Combination medicines
- Diuretics (“water pills”)
How Can I Lower My Blood Pressure Immediately?
If blood pressure spikes, there may be ways to lower it quickly. These methods are not a substitute for lifestyle changes or medications used to treat hypertension. Tell your doctor if your blood pressure spikes and ask if any of the methods below are appropriate for your case.
To help reduce blood pressure quickly, try these methods which can help reduce stress and induce calm:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Get some sun
- Take a short walk
- Drink beetroot and apple juice
- Drink hibiscus tea
What Are Complications of High Blood Pressure?
Complications of untreated or uncontrolled high blood pressure include: