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High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure

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Definition

Blood pressure is the force that blood puts on the blood vessel walls. Blood pressure measurements include 2 numbers:

  • Systolic pressure: top number, normal reading is 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or less
  • Diastolic pressure: bottom number, normal reading is 80 mmHg or less

High blood pressure is abnormally high pressure and is defined as:

  • Systolic pressure greater than 140 mmHg and/or
  • Diastolic pressure greater than 90 mmHg

Prehypertensive is a systolic blood pressure between 120-139 mmHg, or a diastolic pressure between 80- 89 mmHg. Ideally, lifestyle changes or treatment can stop or delay this from moving to high blood pressure.

High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and blood vessels. Over time, this condition can damage these organs and tissues.

Organs Impacted by High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure and organs
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Causes

The body has a number of steps to help keep blood pressure in a healthy range. It is not clear what changes happen in this process that causes primary hypertension. It develops gradually over time.

Risk Factors

High blood pressure develops over time so it is most common in older adults, especially postmenopausal women.

Factors that may increase the risk of high blood pressure include:

  • Overweight
  • Excess alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • High-fat, high-salt diet
  • Stress

Symptoms

High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms.

If blood pressure reaches extreme levels, symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness

Diagnosis

High blood pressure is often diagnosed during a doctor’s visit. Blood pressure is measured using an arm cuff and a special device. If the reading is high, you will come back for repeat checks. If you have 3 visits with readings over 140/90 mmHG, you will be diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Sometimes people become anxious at the doctor’s office. This may result in a higher than normal blood pressure reading. You may be asked to measure your blood pressure at home or in another location.

Treatment

Treatment will focus on reducing the pressure on the blood vessels. Improving the blood pressure will help to decrease the stress on important organs. It can also decrease the risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage

Treatment may need to be adjusted over time. Options may include:

Prevention

To help reduce the risk of high blood pressure:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet. It should be rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods. It should also be low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
  • Be regularly physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit .
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Moderate is 2 or fewer drinks per day for men and 1 or fewer drinks per day for women and older adults.
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