What is high blood pressure?
When your doctor or nurse tells you your blood pressure, he or she will say 2 numbers. For instance, your doctor or nurse might say that your blood pressure is “140 over 90.” The top number is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is contracting. The bottom number is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is relaxed.
- Normal blood pressure is below 120/80.
- In 2017, the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for high blood pressure.
- Blood pressure between 120/80 and 129/80 is elevated blood pressure, and a blood pressure of 130/80 or above is considered high.
- The American Academy of Cardiology defines blood pressure ranges as:
- Hypertensionstage 1 is 130-139 or 80-89 mm Hg, and hypertension stage 2 is 140 or higher, or 90 mm Hg or higher.
What are the symptoms?
High blood pressure may not have any symptoms and so hypertension has been labeled “the silent killer.” Longstanding high blood pressure can lead to multiple complications including heart attack, kidney disease, or stroke.
Some people experience symptoms with their high blood pressure. These symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Feeling of pulsations in the neck or head
What causes high blood pressure?
The causes of hypertension are multifactorial, meaning there are several factors whose combined effects produce hypertension.
- High salt intake or salt sensitivity: This occurs in certain populations such as the elderly, African Americans, people who are obese, or people with kidney (renal) problems.
- Genetic predisposition to high blood pressure: People who have one or two parents with hypertension have high blood pressure incidence about twice as high as the general population.
- A particular abnormality of the arteries, which results in an increased resistance (stiffness or lack of elasticity) in the tiny arteries (arterioles): This increased peripheral arteriolar stiffness develops in individuals who are also obese, do not exercise, have high salt intake, and are older.
How can I lower my blood pressure?
If your doctor or nurse has prescribed blood pressure medicine, the most important thing you can do is to take it. If it causes side effects, do not just stop taking it. Instead, talk to your doctor or nurse about the problems it causes. He or she might be able to lower your dose or switch you to another medicine. If cost is a problem, mention that too. He or she might be able to put you on a less expensive medicine. Taking your blood pressure medicine can keep you from having a heart attack or stroke, and it can save your life!
Can I do anything on my own?
You have a lot of control over your blood pressure. To lower it:
- Lose weight (if you are overweight)
- Choose a diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
- Reduce the amount of salt you eat
- Do something active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week
- Cut down on alcohol (if you drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day)
- It’s also a good idea to get a home blood pressure meter. People who check their own blood pressure at home do better at keeping it low and can sometimes even reduce the amount of medicine they take.