High Blood Pressure
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as chronic hypertension, is a long-term condition in which your blood pressure (BP) is higher than normal. Your BP is the force of your blood moving against the walls of your arteries. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Pre-hypertension is BP between 120/80 and 139/89. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.
What are the risks of high blood pressure?
You may lose vision in one or both eyes. You may develop heart and blood vessel disease. This increases your risk for a life-threatening heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or kidney disease. What increases my risk for chronic hypertension?
- Age older than 55 years (men).
- Age older than 65 years (women).
- A family history of hypertension or heart disease.
- Obesity or lack of exercise.
- Eating too much sodium (salt).
- Use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs.
- A medical condition, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or kidney disease.
- Medicines, such as steroids or birth control pills.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and the medicines you take. They will also ask if you have a family history of high blood pressure and about any health conditions you have. They will check your blood pressure and weight and examine your heart, lungs, and eyes.
You may need any of the following tests:
- Blood tests may help healthcare providers find the cause of your hypertension. Blood tests can also help find other health problems caused by hypertension.
- Urine tests will be done to check your kidneys.
- An EKG records the electrical activity of your heart. It is used to check your heart rhythm or other problems caused by hypertension.
How is high blood pressure treated?
- Blood pressure medicine is given to lower your blood pressure. A controlled blood pressure helps protect your organs, such as your heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys. You may need more than one type of blood pressure medicine. Take your blood pressure medicine exactly as directed.
- Diuretics help decrease extra fluid that collects in your body. This will help lower your BP. You may urinate more often while you take this medicine.
Preparing for Care
How can I manage high blood pressure?
- Take your blood pressure at home. Sit and rest for five minutes before you take your BP. Extend your arm and support it on a flat surface. Your arm should be at the same level as your heart. Follow the directions that came with your BP monitor. If possible, take at least two BP readings each time. Take your BP at least twice a day at the same times each day, such as morning and evening. Keep a record of your BP readings and bring it to your follow-up visits. Ask your healthcare provider what your blood pressure should be.
- Eat less sodium (salt). Do not add sodium to your food. Limit foods that are high in sodium, such as canned foods, potato chips, and cold cuts. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you follow the DASH Eating Plan. The plan is low in sodium, unhealthy fats, and total fat. It is high in potassium, calcium, and fiber.
- Exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, on most days of the week. This will help decrease your blood pressure. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
- Decrease stress. This may help lower your BP. Learn ways to relax, such as deep breathing or listening to music.
- Limit alcohol. Women should limit alcohol to one drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to two drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can increase your BP and also cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
When should I contact my healthcare provider for high blood pressure?
- You feel faint, dizzy, confused, or drowsy.
- You have been taking your BP medicine and your BP is still higher than your healthcare provider says it should be.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.